- Books, Literature, and Writing
On Poetry Interpretation
People have strong opinions about poetry
I've noticed that people seem to either love or dislike poetry, with varying degrees of intensity.
I think it's fortunate that I was exposed to poetry as a small child, well before I reached school age. I think this was fortunate because I believe people who are first exposed to poetry in a formal school setting are less likely to enjoy it than those who are first exposed to poetry as entertainment.
Poetry is an amazing art form. Emotions and sensations are concentrated and intensified into a potent dose, often less than a single page in length. Poetry makes us feel. But instead of being allowed to feel and be affected by poetry, children in school are asked to analyze and pick poetry apart. That will not give birth to love of poetry anymore than dissecting a rabbit will inspire love of rabbits.
Just like that rabbit, a poem must be killed to be dismantled. How can a person see poetry as alive when they've only seen it pinned to a table and cut wide open with others telling them what it means and what it should make them feel?
Then How Does One Interpret Poetry?
In my opinion, if you want to enjoy poetry, you don't interpret it, you feel it in your gut; you send it tumbling from your tongue and stop to taste it in your ears. Savor the syllables as music, melody, rhythm or tone. Reach for the meaning or let it be thrust upon you and pay attention to what it makes you feel. Poetry isn't a different language, it's your language used differently.
If the reader isn't moved in some way by the poem itself without digging at it like a tick in his ear then either the poet's voice is too quiet and subtle or the reader isn't equipped to hear it. The poem is what it says to each person. If it needs to be explained to be enjoyed, something is missing, either from the poem or its reader.
To me, formally interpreting a poem is as useless as putting toothpaste off the floor back into the tube but sharing your feelings and thoughts about a poem is a lovely thing.
Save your formal poetry interpretation for dusty classrooms and maiden English teachers.
Is It Possible to Enjoy Poetry without Learning Poetry Interpretation? - Do people require instruction of a fairly specific sort to enjoy poetry?
Do people need to be taught how to enjoy poetry or is exposure to poetry all that is needed?
So How Do You Enjoy Poetry?
I enjoy poetry read aloud; spoken or sung, it doesn't matter. To me, poetry is a lot like sheet music. Some people can "hear" sheet music as they read it but others cannot. I think that some people can hear what a poem sounds like when reading it silently but that everyone (barring deafness) can hear a poem spoken aloud or a song played on an instrument. I can often "hear" a poem I read silently but actually reading it aloud gives it a greater depth and resonance for me.
Reading a good poem aloud is a lot like enjoying a fireside story only it can be done without a storyteller, or an audience present.
Does Poetry Need to Be Analyzed and Interpreted to Be Enjoyed?
Does poetry need to be formally interpreted to be enjoyed?
What Makes a Good Poem?
A good poem makes the reader feel something, whether wonder, joy, delight, disgust, anger, or pity, it makes us feel something. Rhythm or rhyme combined with evocative words can wind up emotions or stretch them out. A good poem takes us somewhere new or somewhere old and gives us something to feel that rings true. Good poetry is electric and alive.
That's just my opinion, I'm sure that there are professional opinions of what exactly a good poem is and I'm sure they are very different from mine.
Does a Poem Have to Rhyme?
Does a poem have to rhyme to be good?
© 2010 Kylyssa Shay