Seminar Concludes with ‘The Necessity Of Poetry’


photo by Nick Vagnoni

final day of the 28th Annual Key West Literary Seminar concluded
with a panel discussion led by Timothy Steele on “the necessity of poetry.”
Panelists Erica Dawson, Rhina Espaillat, Rachel Hadas, Yusef Komunyakaa, and
Natasha Tretheway were in accord regarding its essential nature. Poetry is a
win-win, Hadas said. It is dynamic and a pleasure from all vantage points;
writing, reading, teaching, studying, translating.


topic was approached from a personal standpoint as well as a more universal
perspective. Dawson began by saying how grateful she was to live in a world
where events such as the Seminar make it possible to bring people together
over a collective love for poetry. She also expressed the desire for poetry
to be even more central in our culture. This was a sentiment echoed by many of
the panelists. Dawson also said that poetry saved her. It was her way of
organizing her thoughts and emotions in a productive manner. Hadas agreed that
poetry is sometimes a life raft of language.


brought up Steele’s point, made earlier in the Seminar, that people call upon
poetry in difficult times as well as joyous times. It is a place where the public
meets the private. Poetry, and all forms of literature, reminds us that we’re
not alone, that others have been through the same trials of life. It reminds us
that the world is bigger than we are. Espaillat added that it is the glue
between individuals.


the seminar, the topic of teaching poetry to children at an early age was
emphasized. Many said that poetry was not taught to them explicitly until the
college level. Espaillat called for the nurturing of a “culture of amateurs,”
which she recognized tends to have a negative connotation. In fact, Espaillat
explained, an amateur is a lover of something. Poetry and art must be intrinsic
in our culture.

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