Poetry is not some effete way to express rarefied emotion. Poetry is the gritty reality that is left when the pretend is gone. Poetry is the economy of words that expresses the emotions that are, like perfectly ripe fruit, heavy for their size.
Yesterday, I was talking to someone who said, “The only things schools should teach is what you need to do in life.” I agreed, although we both meant different things. For him, school should teach only work-related, practical skills. And I think that music, poetry, dance, and art are forms of communication that we cannot live without.
No one gets to the top of the business world without excellent communication skills. The arts do exactly that. They help us see and listen and hear.
Most of what I do today didn’t exist when I was in school. I certainly did not study how to handle communication problems in the workplace while in college. I learned that from making communication mistakes in the workplace. And I learned how to solve the problem the same way I learned how to create a collage or write a poem, which, incidentally, are similar.
What I still use today is the problem solving I learned. How to think, not what to think. And, of course, that art is the benchmark of a culture. And I’m still using all that knowledge, years later. This poem knows so much I can still learn.
You and Art
Your exact errors make a music
that nobody hears.
Your straying feet find the great dance,
And you live on a world where stumbling
always leads home.
Year after year fits over your face—
when there was youth, your talent
later, you find your way by touch
where moss redeems the stone;
and you discover where music begins
before it makes any sound,
far in the mountains where canyons go
still as the always-falling, ever-new flakes of snow.
–William Stafford, from You Must Revise Your Life
–Quinn McDonald reads poetry to learn about life.