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On Poetrys Ability to Help Teenagers Navigate Their Lives

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

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Although poetry can be complicated and difficult to understand sometimes, the historical practice still has the power to inspire people, and to ultimately help people navigate/interpret their lives. Poetry is a great outlet for today’s teenagers. Teenagers need a safe outlet to interpret their feelings, without the fear of public ridicule or scrutiny. Poetry provides an alternative to just keeping feelings inside. One great benefit of poetry is that teenagers are free to share their writings or they’re free to keep their poems private. In either case, teenagers should be encouraged to have an internal dialogue with themselves, and maybe use poetry, or any other art that encourages self-exploration, to interpret who they are and what their roles are in this world.   

Each generation inherits certain attributes, lessons, freedoms, pressures, and a host of difficulties and challenges. Today’s teenagers experience many of the aforementioned on a daily basis. Some experience all of these things in a single day. Many of today’s teens have to deal with peer pressure, social circles, college choices, whether or not to engage in risky behaviors, and new situations that naturally develop in society. How do these teenagers make sense of it all? One vehicle they have at their fingertips is to take what they’re experiencing and put it into something positive. This is where poetry can play a pivotal role!

Interpreting the world from the perspective of a young adult is a daunting task, but poetry can help establish a “safe place” for a teenager to explore complex feelings, emotions, or attitudes. Poetry can help make sense out of the socially chaotic times. Encouraging teens to deal with their emotions through a positive activity, helps young adults to mature and to be able to identify/express complicated feelings. Self-expression is a fundamental part of poetry, which allows young adults to shape the world they way they see it, especially within today’s brand of spoken word. This form of poetry allows poets to utilize poetry and performance to express themselves. It gives poets the ability to effectively “scream.”

In his poem “To this Day,” spoken word poet Shane Koyczan utilizes poetry to talk about how he grew up, and to illustrate how his upbringing is very similar to the way teens are growing up now. Adults have also navigated the rough terrain of youth and should know all too well what teenagers currently face, as they strive to become functioning adults. Many adults can surely look back and pick out a few instances where they felt unwanted, depressed, and self-conscious. Koyczan’s poem addresses loneliness, depression, and problems he experienced in childhood. “To this Day” has garnered a lot of attention because it blatantly confronts the conditions young adults are exposed to every day. Koyczan uses the art of poetry to force listeners/viewers to analyze the root causes of teenage frustration. The poetry carries the message. Why not teach young adults to channel their feelings/messages through poetry, or any other art form?   

Self-expression is certainly tough, especially when one feels like nobody is really listening. Every day teenagers are screaming for help, and a lot of times their cries go unnoticed, forcing them to deal with their problems in other ways. Sometimes those ways are negative. Educators, artists, activists, teachers, and parents need to help teenagers understand that the pressures of life are real, but that growth is also a real process. The most important part of childhood is enjoying it. Many teenagers continually juggle unhealthy relationships, controversial values, and fatal outlooks on life. Poetry could essentially play the role of a bridge and help teenagers safely cross over the waters of troublesome emotions, confusing environments, and ultimately their lives. Why not show today’s young adults how important it is for them to live peacefully within their worlds, and most importantly within themselves?