Poetry Is Useful—Or At Least It Can Be

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Poetry is always already revolutionary, then. What it says hardly matters. Poetry is useful because of its useless essence, not because of its individual meaning.

Of course, this is nonsense.

The way Noah Berlatsky sees it, mainstream culture and poets agree with each other that poetry is useless—it’s just that most people see that as a bad thing while poets see it as a good thing.

Not so, he argues in the Atlantic: different poems can be useful in different ways, whether that’s pushing back against government repression or just making people laugh.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →