{National Poetry Month} On Matters of Survival


On Matters of Survival by Natalya Lawren {guest writer}

What if poetry was a matter of survival?

I admit to asking this now only because I recently picked up one of my favorite most ridiculous books as I was reorganizing: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks.

Let’s pose this hypothetical exercise, because life-or-death situations really make a point:

The survival in communication. Usually people read Shakespeare and a common misconception is that people of the Elizabethan era actually speak in poetic verse–which is not the case. But what if it was? What if it is? Oral tradition and the common use of poetry has all but gone out the window, but what if you could only speak in poetry?

Maybe this is less about surviving an apocalypse with poetry, but rather,  all about prioritizing. I am sure the majority of the reason why we do not read or appreciate much poetry is that it is fairly unobtrusive in day-to-day life. The poetry section of the bookstore is either hidden in the corner of the store, or mixed in with the eclectic and often-ignored mythology section. But how important would reading poetry become if it were crucial in either something culturally important to us (like the password to the wifi) or something survival-oriented (like some sort of food)? How present in our lives would it be if it was something like the zombie apocalypse?

Why is poetry important anyhow? Why is it crucial? Perhaps it uses the words we cannot express in any other way. In the hard times, in the lovely eras, in the inbetweens we exist in. I am already starting to capture the dimension of poetry that makes it so startlingly potent.


Currently poetry is one of those subcultures that emerges occasionally to breathe. Some standout voice may make it into a history lesson or force of protest. Maybe poetry is one of those city workers who mow the lawns of the median, and everything would be chaos without it, but nobody is going to appreciate it until then. I should have posted this on day 1 or 2 to really give a pep talk about the importance of poetry, but I didn’t even think of writing about this until now (thank Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide). I am already part of a community, and once you begin connecting with poets and the world they live in, you can be immersed in a hidden world of poetry organizations, awards and journals, and readings.

There is no sports team for us to become hooked on. But if there was, National Poetry Month 2015 could be a madness. In fact, it could grow enough for there to be a poetry season.

Maybe it’s not because of the lack of exposure that people aren’t reading poetry. But if it is, then we need to work harder to make a bigger presence. Expand the poetry section in the book store. Organize and publicize more events. Introduce poetry to people you know, with the handy phrase, “Oh, did you know it’s National Poetry Month? I’ve been following this really awesome blog talking about it– you should check it out…”

If you feel awkward starting conversations with people about poetry, just remember that at some point, the ability to know and create poetry could save lives, and indeed– be the only form of survival left.


An anthology for you…. Apocalypse Now: Poems and Prose from the End Days (2013) Edited by Alexander Lumans and Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum.

Brian Barker’s poems: “In the City of Fallen Rebels” and “The Last Songbird

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