Is Everyone a Poet?

By Maria Sermersheim

We all desire stronger relationships. Strengthening relationships requires good communication, though, which requires expressing ourselves well. This self-expression necessitates mediums beyond just dialogue because other things—such as poetry, song, and dance—reach depths of communication that are foreign to the direct exchange of words. There is more about a person than can be expressed within the constraints of conversation. Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI alluded to this value of beautiful, expressive communication when he spoke about the Psalms, saying, “For prayer that issues from the word of God, speech is not enough: music is required.” But what if someone is not a poet or a dancer? Is he excluded from these depths? Is he simply denied access to the riches and treasures of the authentic human experience? No; I think everyone is a poet and a dancer at heart because these arts spring from faith and the desire for community.

Poetry and dancing are not about following rules. The exact mathematics of a haiku and the technical footwork of the foxtrot are not the substance of the art; they are merely standard variations of the form. Fundamentally, poetry and song infuse words with personality and open the world of language to a more intimate experience of the poet and his life. At its core, dancing translates our abstract sentiments into body language, allowing us to share emotions through the tangible experience of life and (sometimes) coordinated physical interaction. We do not need to be skilled in these things to gain something from the arts; as long as the endeavor is genuine, it will serve to enrich communication and strengthen relationships regardless of talent or formality.

A poem written by a second-grader can be as meaningful as one by Robert Frost because what makes a poem, song, or dance valuable is that it is personal expression – not that it has perfect form or pristine structure. Both a moving, professional ballet and the amusing interpretive dance of a toddler can bind us in relationship with others. No matter where the explicit subject lies on the spectrum of profundity, poetry, song, and dance are the products of an ultimate longing for faith and community. Pope Benedict XVI said, “Faith is love and therefore creates poetry and music. Faith is joy, therefore it creates beauty.” We are social and expressive beings who strive for the divine. We all want to express ourselves beautifully, to be heard and understood in ways that convey more than basic speech. It is important, then, that poetry and dance integrate beauty and communication for us. Everyone has an inner poet and dancer because these works of art are governed only by the rule of authenticity.

To strengthen relationships as we wish, we must do more than just appreciate a poem or a dance; we must share our own beautiful communications. We can and should join in the dance and thus allow others to participate more fully in our lives. Let us express ourselves with more variety and reach beyond the bounds of dialogue; let us share the fullness of life and build community. Let us strengthen relationships with the aid of the arts.