i think billy collins might agree with you, poetry can do all those things (and a heck of a lot more, if, indeed, poetry must "do" anything at all).
i think the problem comes when someone buys something like a Maya Angelou Life Mosaic Thankful Vase ($24.95) with the inscription "Be present in all things and thankful for all things", or a Maya Angelou Life Mosaic Card ($2.99) reading "Do not reject / Do not demand / You can have life / in the palm of your hand", and begins to confuse cheap platitudes with poetry. (it's gotta be good poetry, right? it's a message of hope and inspiration written by maya angelou!)
the Maya Angelou Life Mosaic Collection isn't about poetry, any more than any other hallmark collection is (disney, peanuts, dr. seuss, harry potter, whatever). i'm neither here nor there on maya angelou as a poet, i haven't really read much of her stuff. but the "sentiments" on the hallmark/angelou items could have been written by virtually anyone, and there are probably more than a thousand people right here at passions who can turn a better phrase. it's all about money, celebrity and a Name Brand to increase market share.
that's all well and good (i've always liked hallmark cards, btw), but i can totally empathize with billy collins.
[This message has been edited by jenni (02-07-2002 03:23 AM).]