There are different perspectives in poetry. A poet sometimes writes about themselves. They might write about society. They might write about a societal group. They could write about a specific person. They could write about a fictional person.
In writing poetry about others, one concern is that of empathy. When a poet writes about the experiences of others, they could be concerned with letting the others know they have some sense of their feeling. This can be important if a poet writes a poem about someone specific, or even if a poet writes a poem about a specific type of person.
Think, for example, of a poet writing about grief. They might not be experiencing any grief at the moment, but they still want to write about it. They might know someone who is experiencing grief, or they may want to communicate with those who are experiencing grief in their audience.
If a poet does this, the might find it important to be sensitive. They are writing about people experience something difficult. They don’t want to make light of the subject. Additionally, they don’t want to seem out of touch. They don’t want to use clichés or write things that people experiencing grief might not relate well to.
This same idea applies to other subjects as well, particularly those that have a negative component. A poet wants to write something that reaches people in a way that they can relate to.
There are some steps a poet can take to improve the empathy of their poetry.
One thing a poet can do is talk to people experiencing something. They might not ask, “So what is this like?” but they can try to get a sense of an experience through conversation.
As a corollary to this, and where appropriate, a poet could observe people who are experiencing something. For example, if a poet wanted to write about loss in sport, they could observe sport teams and athletes when they lose. They could look at their reactions and see what they say in interviews. Of course, this isn’t appropriate for all situations, but it can help in some.
Another thing a poet can do is learn about a subject. The more a poet knows about something, the more a poet can understand what someone experiencing it is going through. Although it’s not the same, it can it least improve some understanding. A poet could read articles, blogs, and books about a subject, and they could watch videos related to it.
As another technique, a poet could imagine themselves in a situation. For example, if a poet wanted to express empathy for those who lost their jobs, they could imagine what it might be like to lose their own job. They could try to imagine how they would feel.
Another thing a poet could do, and only where appropriate, is experience something themselves. Of course, this isn’t right for all situations, but it can work for some. For example, where they are physically able and with a doctor’s approval, a poet might skip a meal to experience a little bit of what hunger is like. This could help a poet who wants to write for those experiencing hunger.
As another idea, a poet could draw on some past experience. The experience might not be the same as what they are writing about, but as long as it relates it could help. A poet could translate what they felt in the past experience to the new subject they are writing about.
Expressing empathy in poetry can be hard. If a person hasn’t gone through something, it can be hard to express what that something feels like. Still, there are steps a poet can take to improve the empathy of their work. By doing so, a poet can better reach those who have gone through what they are writing about.