Why Non-Poets Need to Read Poetry

Thursday, April 18, 2024
A favorite poet.

April is National Poetry Month. If you’re not a poet, you may be tempted to give this post a miss. “Ugh, she’s just going to yammer on about poetry. Yuck.” But bear with me. 

Even if you aren’t a poet, it is an excellent idea to read poetry. Here are five reasons why. 


Heaven help us, poems have depth. There is the topic that you see on the surface. “Hey, this is a poem about bluebirds. I adore bluebirds!” But there is also the underlying topic. “Wait a minute. This is a poem about memory and how it shapes the present.” 

If you’ve ever been told that your manuscript won’t stand up to multiple readings, study poetry. If you’ve ever been told that your piece was too flat, study poetry. Need to know how to incorporate multiple themes? That’s right. Study poetry. 


Poetry manages to create pieces with multiple layers and all that depth because successful poets do it while spinning wholly unique look at a topic. Want to write about the quietness of nature? Then you’ll have to do it without writing about hummingbirds, egrets, or the stillness of a pond. Why? Because Mary Oliver already did that. 

Because poetry demands a unique approach, it is a great lesson on getting beyond cliché and all that is overused. 


As you read poetry, you get to see the world in many different ways. You get to experience Mary Oliver’s perspective as well as Sherman Alexie’s. Want to know how Naomi Shihab Nye sees the world? Pick up her poetry. 

Poetry is an excellent way to experience the world through someone else’s mindset. It is a way to broaden your view. 

Every Word Counts 

In part, it is because poems are short, but poems are a literary form in which every word matters. Every word has earned its place in the poem whether it impacts the mood, the rhythm, or the pattern. 

If you are writing picture books or flash, you too need to make a case for every word you choose. You should study the type of writing you are doing, be it picture books, flash, or poetry. But it is also an excellent idea to study all three. After all, you never know where you will find inspiration. 

Word Play 

Children’s poetry in particular involves a lot of word play. In addition to rhyme, there onomatopoeia (sound words), assonance (repeating vowels or diphthongs), alliteration (repeated consonants), and just the galloping, romping rhythm of words. 

I’m not going to say that word play makes an appearance in every sentence I write. But when I want a to pack a punch, the words come out to play. Did you know that a string of single syllable words can help create emphasis? 

I will never be a poet. No, really. It just isn’t how I’m wired.  But I can appreciate the poetry of others as well as the lessons poetry has taught me to use in my own writing. 

So, tell me. What poets should I be reading? Favorite poems? Let’s share! 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of 50 books for young readers.  
  • To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.  
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She is also the instructor for 3 WOW classes which begin again on  May 6, 2024. She teaches:


Jodi Webb said...

I'll never be a poet either. Thanks to my husband I've read a lot of Robert Frost. I also like Shel Silverstein. I guess thanks to my years as a mom but I think he's for everyone.

Renee Roberson said...

I've always love the Romantic era of poetry. I studied it in college and that was the unit I really enjoyed. This post has inspired me to check out some different types now for fun! You never know what it will inspire.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Definitely Shel Silverstein esp if you write for young readers. If you like nature poetry, I'd rec Douglas Florian.

Who are the Romantic poets that you enjoy? This area is NOT my strength.

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