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The Power of Poetry

Stretch your imagination and celebrate the wonders of verse.

By Aine O’Neill


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Poems can express what we are feeling like no other medium. As the poet Muriel Rukeyser says, “Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry.” Poems sharpen our senses, put words on our emotions, and help us savor the world through the light of the poet’s eyes.

I am honored to hold the role of Poet in Residence for District 71 (United Kingdom and Ireland) for the 2021–2022 program year. It is a new role for our District, and it’s exciting to be involved in such a novel project.

I have loved writing from a very young age, and I have written many poems for milestones in people’s lives and as holiday gifts and for sick or elderly relatives. It has been my experience that people are very touched by this form of expression.

March 21 is World Poetry Day, a time to celebrate the benefits that poetry brings to our lives. Writing, reading, and hearing poems help us:

  • Foster a connection with nature
  • Tap into our emotional and inner lives
  • Develop an understanding of the world around us
  • Increase our empathy for others
  • Create a stage for our own experience

Many Toastmasters clubs include a role for poetry in their meetings. In our club, the Irish Life Toastmasters in Dublin, we have a Poetmaster who chooses a poem to present or recites one of their own at the beginning of the meeting. This helps elevate members’ use of language, or at the very least gets them thinking in creative ways. That, in turn, sharpens our speechwriting skills. As part of my role as Poet in Residence, I write poems to inspire members to reach high, believe in themselves, and achieve their goals.

Poems sharpen our senses, put words on our emotions, and help us savor the world through the light of the poet’s eyes.

It is one thing to read poetry and enjoy it, but why not use your creative juice to write some poetry? Start by noticing things around you. Keep a notebook. Jot down anything quirky or observations you have noticed during your day.

Follow these basic steps to writing a poem (as devised by poet Pat Boran in his book The Portable Creative Writing Workshop).

  • Pick an object in the room where you are now.
  • Write down its texture, feel, weight.
  • Write down where it is taking you in your head.
  • Pick out words that would help convey the function of that object.
  • Check if they invoke the senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing).
  • Begin your poem by writing two or three verses.
  • Try writing in either rhyming couplets (a pair of lines in a verse) or free verse (unrhymed poetry without a regular meter) to begin with.
  • Attempt to incorporate a universal message in the end of your poem. This can deepen the impact of your poetry, as it taps into our common humanity.

As part of my role, I am holding a series of workshops for the District. In the first of these workshops, held in October 2021, participants wrote poems about objects in their room, such as a pen, a rocking chair, a golf ball, and an ornament, to name a few. The quality of the poetry produced gave me immense pleasure. There’s no reason why you can’t give this a go—you might just surprise yourself at what you can achieve.

So for World Poetry Day, why not read, recite, and revel in the work of poets around the world. I promise you will feel all the better for it. Enjoy!


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