My mother keeps every­thing. From pig trinkets my brother and I gave to her as children to family heir­looms that friends or family gave to her since her childhood, she still has it all. Most of all, she trea­sures the hand­iwork of her two sons.

Over the summer, while cleaning out my brother’s room for some guests, I went through an old box of art projects from ele­mentary school. Included in this col­lection were several poems I had written and “artis­ti­cally” dec­o­rated across con­struction paper. My poetry was dreadful and – to be quite honest – worthless, but my mom would never get rid of it.

It was choppy, mostly illegible, and poorly rhymed in the sim­plest of words, but it was a treasure for my mom because I created it.

I would con­sider myself blas­phemous if I were to claim that poetry is worthless, but a great part of its value stems from its intrinsic lack of what one might call “prac­tical use.” Poetry is a fully human pursuit, because the poet rec­og­nizes beauty and reflects upon it in such a way that others may under­stand and con­ceive of that action, or moment, or sight. Poetry is an active pursuit to rec­ognize and share beauty.

In his essay, “The Defense of Poetry,” Sir Philip Sidney argues for the value of poetry by sep­a­rating it from other activ­ities and pur­suits, such as horse­manship, which men do for pleasure, but also for the skill and prac­ti­cality and mon­etary worth of the mate­rials and skill. He names it a pursuit for no purpose but for beauty.

“The poet only bringeth his own stuff, and doth not learn a conceit out of a matter, but maketh matter for a conceit; since neither his description nor his end con­taineth any evil, the thing described cannot be evil,” Sidney says.

Poetry takes raw action, nature, and thought and reflects it in a human way, bringing about an image of humanity in even com­pletely inhuman things.

Works of art, while often strik­ingly similar to reality, are feats of the imag­i­nation. Poetry teaches some­thing invaluably human to people. It uses extra­or­dinary human instances, examples of life that appear unusual, to teach its audience about what we, too, endure.

“The poet never maketh any circles about your imag­i­nation, to conjure you to believe for true what he writeth.” Sidney writes. “He citeth not author­ities of other his­tories, but even for his entry calleth the sweet Muses to inspire into him a good invention; in troth, not laboring to tell you what is or is not, but what should or should not be.”

The worth of poetry does, in great part, come down to the worn out old idiom “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” as arguing the bril­liance in a work or the effort it may have taken to create some­thing is not the same as the value and power that emanates from a truly beau­tiful poem. Beauty is sub­jective in so far as not all people admire and under­stand the same ideas, but the ability to rec­ognize beauty, pure and unadul­terated, is what makes people human. Not to be able to rec­ognize beauty is to lack an essential aspect of person-ness.

Poetry is a reflection on beauty. It can do this in many ways. It can be done well and it can be done very, very poorly, but it opens the reflec­tions of the soul on some­thing majestic which essen­tially brings out love and the ability to connect and relate to other humans.

In this regard, the writing of a semi-lit­erate child can be valuable. It is not great, and it is not valuable to any other person, but it gave to my mom a glimpse of what was lovely, and shows that even a child is drawn to express the impact of wonder upon himself.