The pen is often considered to be mightier than the sword. But did you know that good poetry has had a tremendous influence on society, too?
Click start to play today’s Spell It, where you can find the word ‘poem’.
Great poets around the world have had an uncanny way of capturing the zeitgeist of society, or getting people to change their perspective with a few well-chosen words. Here are a few poetic moments in history that had a striking impact:
1. Li Bai, poet extraordinaire
China’s Tang Dynasty saw the rise of poet Li Bai. His poems hit a chord with the people who heard them, since they often glorified Nature, or poked fun at corruption. His poetry was known for its clear imagery and conversational tone. Like a bridge across a divide, Li Bai’s poems showed people that it was not reserved for the ruling class. People began to memorise his poems and spread them through word of mouth. His work influenced a number of Western 20th century poets too, like Ezra Pound and James Wright.
2. Shakespeare, the Bard
Before he became one of the greatest and best-known writers in history, Shakespeare was part of the lower class in England. With his insight into human nature and gift for seeing things from different perspectives, Shakespeare wrote sonnets, plays and monologues that are still repeated all around the world. He is also responsible for introducing over 1,700 new words in the English language, along with entirely new idioms. His impact on English language and theatre has transcended time.
3. The Beat Generation
People in the US had become used to poetry that was simple and easy to understand. When American poet Allen Ginsberg first read ‘Howl’ to a gallery full of people in October 1955, however, he changed everything. His poem, which encapsulated the Beat movement, was scandalous, ultra-modern, and made absolutely no sense to people from the older generation. Howl inspired a whole host of poets and songwriters who came after Ginsberg – from musician Bob Dylan to novelist Jack Kerouac.