Tomorrow to Leeds to take part in the discussion as per the title above. I am to speak for 7 - 10 minutes. Naturally enough I go back to Sidney and Shelley who wrote defences of poetry, because they thought it needed defending, and I suppose it always does.
And yet it doesn't and never has. It has been there since the beginning of language, possibly preceding the story which needs elements of established syntax. Poetry comes from song and cry, and that requires only rhythm and the resonance of living things. It is why songs could afford their fa-la-la's and nonny-no's, when prose can't be doing with such matters. The sound has semi-independent life. For that reason poetry has always been associated with magic. It conjures not so much the idea of things but the presence of things, and that is because it works as much through the body as the mind. Because the word is not only a signifier but a physical experience - a piece of nonsense with flesh on.
None of this exactly a defence. It just is so. Furthermore we know it just is. It is proved not in the mind but on the pulse. Elements of poetry constitute our attempt to represent the sensation of experience, though, of course, we experience our thoughts and feelings as well as the physicaliities of touch, taste, sight, hearing and smell. The logicalities of syntax tell us about these things and organise them into chains of cause and effect, but poetry brings them before us as experience in language.
So when it comes to education that is where I would begin - with the extraordinary strangeness, startlingness, beauty and horror of language. I would not, as Billy Collins puts it, torture the single significant meaning out of a poem then throw away the rest. The trick is to hear it, to listen really hard, almost in the spirit of rebellion, almost with the kind of contempt Marianne Moore writes about, because, down there, in those imaginary gardens, there are, there really are, real toads. The trick is to sense the language toad, not to find a use for the poem.
Uses exist, of course, but the chief use of poetry to sense the presence of the toad in language, without which sense nothing happens, without which the language enterprise is all imaginary gardens in which only ghosts can live. Shelley understood that.
But poetry in a more restricted sense expresses those arrangements of language, and especially metrical language, which are created by that imperial faculty, whose throne is curtained within the invisible nature of man.
That will do for a start. And so will this:
… Poetry is ever accompanied with pleasure
Without pleasure, nothing. Teachers: teach them pleasure. Something like this, anyway.