What Can Poetry Offer Us in Distressing Times?

What Can Poetry Offer Us in Distressing Times? | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Illustration by Be Boggs.

Moderated by Carla Hall, Editorial Board Member, Los Angeles Times

“in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.”

So wrote Adrienne Rich in her poem “What Kind of Times Are These?” Human beings, when faced with difficulty and uncertainty, seek meaning, connection and perspective in cooking, faith or music. But in the most challenging situations, poetry plays a special role, helping us name our deepest feelings—or just “talk about trees.” What is it about poetry that allows us to escape our greatest anxieties, find space for introspection, or even achieve catharsis? What is it about the poetic combination of meter, rhyme, and carefully chosen words that hits us so hard in hard times? Why, when faced with uniquely modern problems and pandemics, do we reach for this oldest of art forms? Former United States Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, poet and author Inez Tan, and Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Ríos visit Zócalo to consider how reading and writing poetry can save us when all seems lost.

This event will be online-only, with audience participation via live chat.

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