Poetry’s Ability to Foster a Sense of Belonging

To state the obvious, It’s April! A month to celebrate poetry and its role in our society. What better way than to highlight its benefits? Some of those benefits are poetry’s ability to provide a means of expression, inspire empathy and understanding, offer comfort and solace, to name just a few.

Poetry and Community

Another benefit is poetry’s ability to foster a sense of belonging. In a world where many people feel isolated and disconnected, poetry can serve as a powerful tool to bring people together. Because poetry is a great outlet for our emotions and communicating our vulnerabilities. Hence, it can help us connect and strengthen relations with others. It can create a sense of community.

When I speak of poetry’s ability to foster a sense of belonging, I speak from my experience. As anyone with two homes can attest, there’s always an element of in-betweeness. The feeling of being neither here nor there, and being outside of culture. Oh yes, dual nationality can create issues around social and cultural identity! Poetry serves as my anchor when I feel like an unfastened boat in deep waters.

Spectators at a Poetry Festival

Can any other art form provide the same benefit? Certainly. In fact, communities are formed based on all kinds of commonalities that have nothing to do with art.

But I’m focusing on poetry as this unique but universal invisible thread that can help us connect with one another. We can find ourselves in some wonderful and empathetic communities, where we feel seen, heard, and supported. Mind you, I said communities not poetry communities!

Poetry and the Public

That’s why I don’t understand people who treat poetry like a yacht club. When poetry’s origin dates back to oral history. When poetry was passed through oral stories, song and performance within communities and in public spaces. And where subjectivity of a few did not dictate a poem’s popularity, but the public, the fans.

The many levels of gatekeeping, cliques and snobbery within the poetry community / communities is a topic for another day. But I’d like to know, when did poets start writing for other poets, instead of the public? When poetry goes way back before people could write? It’s no wonder poetry is deemed not of service to the public.

Well, dear reader, if you do anything this month, make some time for poetry. To feel the sense of openness and interconnectedness. Remember, it doesn’t have to come in a fancy wrapping, but speak to your heart.

PS. Feature Photo by Trust “Tru” Katsande on Unsplash.

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Khaya Ronkainen
Khaya Ronkainen is a writer, poet and creative professional. Her blog focuses on all things poetry and creative nonfiction.


  1. True about poetry becoming more about poets. I think poets and poetry end up that way because there aren’t enough takers for poetry out there. My own experience here has been that even avid readers of prose rarely venture into English poetry (though vernacular poetry does very well), except famous/classic poets, and now instagram poets. Not to say it is the same everywhere, some places are absolutely vibrant. But even online, you mainly see poets interacting with one another. Am not doing Napowrimo, but writing and reading for sure!!

  2. I agree, poetry readers, at large, seem to have a preference for famous/classic poets. Can’t blame them, it’s how many of us first came to contact with poetry…And yes, vernacular poetry is thriving. I’m inspired by some contemporary South African poets, who are developing multilingual poetry education projects for schools to embrace all the (eleven) languages we speak. So, indeed, some places are vibrant. This demonstrates that poetry is not dying anytime soon. And I give credit to insta-poets too, regardless of the divided opinions, they have revived the interest.

    “But even online, you mainly see poets interacting with one another.” Exactly! I guess there more work to be done by poets to demonstrate that poetry does not belong to those who write but to those who need, as Pablo Neruda once said.

    Yeah, I’m not doing Na/GloPoWriMo either, never did. But always reading and writing, at my own pace. Thanks for your input, Rajani. I appreciate it.

  3. Thank you, Dawn. It’s good to have a month dedicated to poetry and its role. It’s an opportunity to also talk about practical ways poetry enriches our lives.

  4. I am definitely making time for poetry under the cherry blossoms this month. A poetry group I was involved with in Philadelphia brought up similar concerns about poetry’s reputation for being inaccessible and rarified. I would like to see more people get to know its not so snooty! Poetry is for anyone who has ever had an emotion–so pretty much everyone.

  5. “when did poets start writing for other poets, instead of the public?” That was a thought-provoking line, Khaya. I would love to attend a poetry festival. I’ll have to see if there’s one around here. Like all art, there’s nothing better than seeing it reach and move a broad audience. <3 <3

  6. Love this so much. Poetry brought me you, and a handful of people I value very much. So, poetry definitely builds family.

  7. I agree. Poetry is not always seen as an accessible art form, almost like art in an art gallery (for some). Of course, I don’t see your poetry that way, but I have noticed in the writing world, poetry is seen as high-brow.

  8. I’m glad you find that line thought-provoking, Diana. Because, at worst, I think it could raise some heated debates :), as I’ve heard some scholars say, “People make it sound like poets writing for other poets is a bad thing.” Anyway, I hope you get to attend poetry festivals or readings in your area. Enjoy your Sunday! <3

  9. “Poetry brought me you…” This is most heart-warming. Thank You, Maga! Poetry brought me you, too, and my other chosen family members. I cannot began to tell you how much I cherish these relationships! <3 <3

  10. It is sad that poetry is still seen as high-brow, even today. Because this excludes a lot of people, who might otherwise enjoy reading and writing it. That’s why my favourite poets are those who do not conform to the convention.

  11. Wow, a poetry festival! It’s absolutely wonderful, Khaya! I understand what you meant that people seem to be distant themselves with poetry. I had a colleage who was a second grade teacher. She taught hiku and tanka to her second grade students. When my daughter was in frst grade, she wrote a free vese poem in class. We sent it to an anthology of the young poets. She still has a copy of the book.

  12. I applaud any teacher who teaches poetry to second graders or in primary school. Because, I believe it offers so much room for play with language, among other benefits. Kudos to your daughter for publishing her poetry at such an early age. I’m sure that copy is something to treasure! I hope she still writes and shares her poetry. Thanks Miriam, I appreciate your comment.

  13. I absolutely love poetry, it is beautiful rhythm. It is how I started “knowing” writing was one of my gifts. In search of my biological family I learned that an aunt that transitioned over published her first poetry book. It is wonderful to know it is in the DNA.

  14. What a beautiful thing to find that poetry is in your DNA! Bless your aunt for leaving you with such a precious gift. I hope you pick up pen and paper more often, and dance to the rhythm of your words. Thank you for this wonderful comment, Michelle. <3

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