Have you ever shaken your head in frustration after reading a modern or contemporary poem, certain you didn’t get the “real meaning?” Matthew Zapruder’s Why Poetry? will convince you to try again. In his book of essays, Zapruder argues that poets do not write in coded messages. Instead, poetry can be understood by anyone by starting with the meanings of words and relying on the power of association, leaving room for leaps of imagination and the possibility of a “central unsayability.” Written with an awareness of our current political situation, Zapruder eloquently contends that, for the very reason that poetry relies on ways of understanding that are not purely logical or rational, we need poetry now more than ever for its ability to help us create a space where we can bridge the many divides we face.
For the reader or writer of poetry and for the person simply seeking a way to be in the world in these troubling times, Zapruder’s essays will prove enormously compelling and thought provoking. This book simply should not be missed.
(Originally reviewed for Seattle Book Review.)