For many busy professionals, reading poetry is not up on the daily to do list. And if it is, it is somewhere down in the “nice to do” part of the list, around number thirty-seven perhaps, somewhere after “take out trash” and “file nails.” Even if you like poetry (or love it, as I do), it may be more of a guilty pleasure than a “must do.” It is on your vacation list, your beach book list, your when-work-life-balance-gets-sorted-out list. If that is the case, the “12 Most Practical Excuses for Reading Poetry Daily” list is definitely for you. Here you will find all the excuses you might need to respond to those inner or outer critics who do not understand why you would want to make poetry one of your everyday “to do’s.”
1. I’m working on the brand called me
A book of Basho’s haiku casually placed on your desktop could enhance your reputation. Suddenly you are more than a cubicle dweller. You are mysterious, intelligent, well-rounded. It can’t hurt. (Opening up the book on a break is even better, but we’ll get to that.)
2. I am preparing for a job interview
It is becoming increasingly common practice for potential employers to ask questions that go beyond strengths and weaknesses, and reveal a bit about who you are as a human. Sometimes they might even ask, “What have you been reading lately?” Imagine how impressed they will be when you respond that you have been thoroughly enjoying Mary Oliver’s ‘American Primitive’ with a side-helping of Rainer Maria Rilke’s ‘Sonnets to Orpheus.’
3. I need a good quote to dress up the annual report
Corporate documents are famously dull. Make it your mission to spice them up a bit, to make them actually (get this) readable. Nothing says “interesting” and “tell me more” better than a perfectly placed poetic quote. By reading poetry every day, you will have an arsenal of such gems to brighten up even the most boring paper weight. And keeping a book of poetry close by (see point 1) will make this even easier.
4. I want to be more empathetic
This is a great excuse for just about any audience. Who doesn’t want more empathy in the world? Poetry opens you up to different perspectives, new ways of reasoning, explanations for the inexplicable. It may even provide insight into a particularly problematic person in your life. Bonus: It’s cheaper than therapy, and has none of the nasty side effects of medication.
5. I’m wooing
Shakespeare, cummings, Keats… and the list goes on and on. They were love masters. And if you are courting, they are your friends. If you are at a loss for words to describe your feelings, take a page from one of these match-makers.
6. I’m sorry
You did it again. The “oops-I-didn’t-mean-to-say-that” moment, and it’s too late to take it back. What to do? Poetry can soothe the wounded heart and stand in the gap when your own words might need a rest.
7. I need to be prepared to entertain crowds on demand
When I was a child, every Easter my mother’s family would all pile into our little one-floor ranch on Amelia Drive to eat ham. At some point, my great-aunt Miriam would inevitably recite “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” which never failed to impress me for its interminable length and her staying power. While I would suggest a different (shorter) poem, I think it’s a grand idea to memorize at least one work of poetry that you can recite to fill in such holiday gaps.
8. It is a relatively pleasant way to pass time at the DMV (or ER or in the grocery line)
Admit it, you would rather read a few of Lear’s limericks than count the dandruff flakes on the shoulders of the guy in front of you in line. Enough said.
9. My kids will thank me for this
Well, maybe they won’t thank you, at least not for a long time. But research has shown a correlation between the number of books you have in your home and how well your children do in school. Why not add a few books of poetry to your crowded, achievement-oriented shelves?
10. It’s quicker to read a poem than a novel
You fancy yourself a life-long learner, but let’s face it, you are busy. A sonnet or two is simply an easier time commitment than a whole chapter of Dostoyevsky.
11. I want to be an innovator
Innovators are constantly challenging their minds, opening themselves to new perspectives, forms, and philosophies. Poetry provides fertile soil for the “ah ha” moment.
12. It is my choice
Poetry is completely unnecessary for basic survival. It is not a duty, to yourself or anyone else. It is one thing (perhaps the only thing in your day) that you absolutely do not have to do. And that is precisely what makes this last the best excuse there is: to reinforce your sense of control over your own life.
If you weren’t already inclined to carry a poem in your pocket, I hope this list has given you more reasons than ever to give it a try. And if you already were an avid reader of poetry, I would love to hear your excuses (not that you need them!). What are your best reasons for reading poetry and who are your go to poets?
Image by Christopher Jolly via unsplash.com.