Behind-the-Scenes of Red Hen: Why Poetry is Important to Red Hen

Red Hen Press
6 min readApr 20, 2023

By Lizzy Young

At Red Hen, we love National Poetry Month because poetry is a vital part of what we do here at the Hen House, part of the essential human practice known as literature.

When I think about the importance of poetry, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “A Defence of Poetry,” where he defends the importance of poetry against the idea that technology and industrialism make it obsolete, comes to mind. Reading his work was the first time I really understood why poetry was important. In one of his most beautiful defenses, he wrote:

“Poetry turns all things to loveliness; it exalts the beauty of that which is most beautiful, and it adds beauty to that which is most deformed; it marries exultation and horror, grief and pleasure, eternity and change; it subdues to union under its light yoke all irreconcilable things. It transmutes all that it touches, and every form moving within the radiance of its presence is changed by wondrous sympathy to an incarnation of the spirit which it breathes; its secret alchemy turns to potable gold the poisonous waters which flow from death through life; it strips the veil of familiarity from the world.”

Shelley praises poetry because it does what a traditional story structure cannot; its combination of words enlightens and transcends time, putting forth truths in a way that makes people see them differently.

Some Red Hen staffers also answered the question why poetry is important to them and gave some wonderful poetry recommendations. Keep reading to understand why poetry is part of the heart of Red Hen!

Rebeccah Sanhueza, Production Associate

Rebeccah Sanhueza headshot

Why poetry is important to Rebeccah: “Personally, I think poetry is the closest humans come to putting the ephemerality of thought, emotion, and those moments you witness from the corner of your eye and the depths of one’s heart into written form. One can explain and expound on a topic, which makes prose works so exquisitely compelling, but poetry often goes beyond the carefully crafted complexity of reason and speaks across time, nations, language, and politics to the stark musicality of what it is to be human.”

Rebecca’s poetry recs: Two of my favorite poems are La poesía or “Poetry” by Pablo Neruda and “Death Is Nothing At All” by Henry Scott-Holland.

Find out more about Rebeccah by checking out her Behind-the-Scenes of Red Hen Press interview from the fall!

Chloë Zofia, Marketing Assistant

Why poetry is important to Chloë: “I love poetry because it holds space for abstraction. I’m neurodivergent, and my way of comprehending the world around me is naturally abstract. In poetry, there’s this freedom to write wildly, and to say what you mean without the gravity of literal representation. Tell me you ate blueberries for breakfast without telling me you ate blueberries for breakfast — -that’s poetry, baby!”

Chloë’s poem rec: “Loneliness. Speak Through Me.” by Dexter L. Booth, from Abracadabra, Sunshine (p.45)

I try on the language of forgiveness

when there is nothing left to say.

How can I translate water?

Two million lotus flowers, still

no snow.

Half of the cover is blue and the other half is black. The blue half has the title Trouble Funk and the black half has the author name, Douglas Manuel

Chloë’s poetry collection rec: “Trouble Funk by Douglas Manuel coming out April 25, 2023. Definitely grab a copy. Doug is the man.”

Monica Fernandez, Media Director

Monica Fernandez Headshot

Why poetry is important to Monica: “There’s nothing like the experience of hearing poetry read out loud. For me, that is how I appreciate poetry the most — whether it’s read out loud by the author or by a guest, there’s always something about the intonation, the feeling, the emotion, that you can hear in the tone, speed, and inflection of someone’s voice. Poetry is such a unique form of expression because of the never-ending layers of meaning and interpretation from just a few lines of written word. I will always admire poets who are able to fit so much nuance into their work.”

Monica’s poetry recs: “Meaningful poetry collections that I love and admire are I Was a Bell by M. Soledad Caballero, Another Phase by Eloise Klein Healy, and Testify by Douglas Manuel.”

Read more about Monica and her role at Red Hen in her Behind-the-Scenes of Red Hen Press Interview!

Camille Carr-Ramirez, Bookkeeping Assistant

Why poetry is important to Camille: “When I was a young child I was gifted a very large book, a poetry anthology called The Golden Treasury of Poetry, which was assembled by the American poet Louis Untermeyer, It included everything from the most basic nursery rhymes up to classic pages-long story poems, and everything in between. For me, that was my first introduction to such a vast array of poems, and it triggered in me a love for poetry (more for reading than for writing though of course I tried my hand at that as well). Poetry has been a part of my life since. So many years later I still have that book — — it is beyond well-worn and held together with a rubber band! Today I really love spoken word poetry and have developed a fondness for rap, so my appreciation for poetry evolves after all these years!”

Cover for the “Golden Book of Poetry”

Marc Merrill Gumbin, Development Assistant

Marc Merrill Gumbin Headshot

Marc’s poetry recommendations: “I really like Terrence Hayes’s Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, Doug Manuel’s Trouble Funk, and anything by Patricia Smith.”

Marc was also featured on a Behind-the-Scenes of Red Hen blog!

Shelby Wallace, Production Editor

Shelby Wallace headshot

Why poetry is important to Shelby: “I’m not a poet myself, but I think poetry has always represented the magic of words, that intangible power they have to make you feel and disrupt the way you think. That power to disrupt your normal thought patterns is what strikes me most about poetry.”

Shelby’s poetry recs:e.e. cummings was the first poet that was really important to me as a child, and I’ve been lugging around a massive collection of all his poems through every single move I’ve ever made, so I have to mention his lovely and lilting works.

John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” was the first poem I committed to memory, so I’ll add that in as well.

And finally, the poem that plays on a loop in my head all day, “In the Desert” by Stephen Crane. Haunting, brief, resonant.

We hope you understand why we love poetry so much at Red Hen and added some awesome poetry to your TBR list! If you have any more questions about poetry and Red Hen, leave them in the comments below!

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Red Hen Press

Nonprofit independent literary publisher aiming to amplify unheard and underrepresented voices and improve literacy in schools. www.redhen.org