Interpreting Poetry: An Oral Art
Making Poetry More Approachable
As a poet, I get a lot of individuals who say they find poetry dry and boring. These people are generally the same ones who listen obsessively to the same genre of music and think reading should be confined to how-to manuals or the latest issue of TIME magazine. Chances are, they've never actually taken the time to really savor a poem and enjoy the sound of the words rolling off their tongue. If this describes you, stop and scroll down to the next section to read the poem I've written there. Read it aloud, enunciate the words and just let the sounds wash over you and barrage your brain with imagery. Pay attention to the syntax, diction, accent and stress, as well as the form of the stanzas. The object of a well-written poem is to create an experience for the reader in a way that is both accessible and attention-grabbing. I can't stress enough how important it is to hear a poem aloud to come to a true understanding of its meaning.
If you're a poet, this is your task. Make the sound of your poem a vocal experience for the reader. New poets often use rhyme to try to accomplish this, but that's overkill. Rhyme used judiciously is extremely powerful, just be very careful not to overdue it. (Hint: ryhme doesn't have to fall at the end of a line to work) You need your reader to be able to hear what is going on in the poem and you should use less words, not more, to accomplish this goal. Try not to use five words where you can use two and don't repeat yourself unless it presents a new idea or is the only way to keep the form of the poem pure. Look at each line of your poem individually and ask yourself, "What can I do to make this sound better?" For example: the line, "The whole of a fortnight on this island, in this moment" can become, "An island fortnight, in a moment."
Also, consider the sounds of your word choices themselves. If your poem is contemplative and restful, use soft, lyrical language with plenty of sussenance. (soft sounding letters, repetition of consonants) If your poem is dramatic and busy, use shorter line lengths and assonance. (repetition of vowels without the repetition of consonants) Above all, enjoy yourself and accept the challenge of creating something original and ultimately beautiful!