Embracing Different Cultures with Poetry 

Written by: Hannah Van Kuiken

Why do we have to study poetry? That is one of the questions that plagues the minds of most college students. Well, for starters, studying poetry allows a person to understand their feelings, but poetry does not just allow a person to understand their emotions; poetry can also allow people to understand different cultures as well. Dr. Lisa Riggs, who teaches American Literature, Native American Literature, African American Literature, as well as Creative Writing: Poetry and so many other literature classes, appreciates that understanding the diversity of cultures is key for better understanding. She says that reading poetry from different cultures opens people’s minds to “lots of interesting and rich ideas.” Dr. Riggs continues, “We have to understand history and culture so that we do not repeat past mistakes.”

She made a reference to how the pilgrims, the founders of this great country, fled England due to religious persecution, but in only a few decade’s time, they were persecuting the Native Americans. This persecution likely resulted from the lack of understanding from different groups of people, past and present, which has led to bad blood in history and has led to all the hate between people today. Dr. Riggs also grasps that there are so many students with different backgrounds attending campus. She says, “We need diversity [in our classes] so that we can understand the different viewpoints from one another’s eyes.” People are becoming more and more separated and set in their own ways, and they are so afraid that what someone says in disagreement to their beliefs is immediately wrong. In arguments, we instantly try to convert one another. Maybe through reading the poetry of another culture with an open mind will help bring people back together, lead to better understanding with one another, and eventually, foster peace among different groups. The concept of community alone should be enough for students to give poetry a try.