So what made me start writing poetry? After my daughter was born, I made an effort to stay "present" in my own life. It's so easy to get distracted by the internet or the TV, especially when you're exhausted. I found that writing poetry, especially short forms like haiku or tanka, helped me to appreciate a moment and capture it on paper (or digitally). Longer forms, like sonnets, have given me a new and exciting challenge. As I wrote more, I discovered a whole community of poets on twitter, people who made social media a tool for sharing art, not just banal trivia. I've admired many of the modern poets I've followed, so I started reading a few modern poetry e-journals and blogs. It's exciting to me that poetry is still a living art form, and it's become so democratic!
Discovering modern poets piqued my interest in reading more classical poets as well. I loved Greek and Roman mythology and poetry when I was in college, so I had read the great epic poems--Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, as well as Virgil's Aeneid and Ovid's Metamorphoses. Now I've started reading A Book of Women Poets: From Antiquity to Now, and I'm looking forward to starting Basho's Narrow Road to a Far Province, one of the great classics of Japanese poetry and literature.
As a writer, I think that reading and writing poetry helps you develop a sense for the rhythm of words, for the way they rise and fall in a sentence. Word choice is vital in poetry; it demands that you think carefully about every detail of a particular word, from its rhyme to its shades of meaning, to the number of syllables it has. It's a far more precise medium than prose writing, yet poetry also has enormous amounts of flexibility and creative possibilities. I have learned to enjoy it very much, and I hope that more people will give it a try.