A poet contributes to society by reflecting reality. Poets, along with other artists function as creators of the moment. Through their words, poets are able to comment on a society’s social or political structure. Their poems communicate an awareness of a moment and an awareness of the humane or inhumane conditions of that specific moment. Thus, they promote social progress and change.
Some believe that poets only become useful or popular after their deaths, but this is because poets (along with other artists) hover on the outskirts of society. They do not always gain acclaim during their lifetimes due to the fact that they question the main ideas or beliefs of that time. A good poet reminds us of our humanity and our history through realistic depiction. Poet Dylan Thomas said, “A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.”
This last October I attended a reading by writer Barry Lopez, in which he defined a writer’s duty as giving voice to the silent injustices that people fear to speak about. By writing about what we may fear or do not comprehend, writers make us aware of our world and more understanding of one another. But perhaps the most meaningful contribution poets make through their writings is that they remind us that society is not life. Life encompasses more than simply belonging to a society, and it is a poet’s desire to express this truth.