How do you read?
How to Read Poetry
I woke up this
morning after a sleepless night, with a whole essay buzzing inside my head.
Despite your being my friends, I will risk all and inflict it on you all.
I know that
whenever anyone pontificates about poetry, and sets out to provide opinions,
or guidance, on such broad issues as "What is poetry?" and "What is good
poetry?" and "How to write poetry" there will be a gang of willing stone
throwers, or perhaps flame throwers, poised and ready to let fly. That's
fine. That's understood. It goes with the territory. For poetry is too
big, too long standing, too fraught with tradition and traditionalists
to allow itself to be pinned down to a set of irrevocable guidelines, definitions
the obvious risks to my ego, my body, yes, even
my very life, I will venture out onto the
high diving board, with no asbestos suit or suit of armour, and put up
some ideas about poetry. Feel free to agree, disagree, hurl abuse, fire
Scuds, or yawn with feigned ennui as the spirit takes you.
strange? Someone asks a simple question, you start to answer it, and suddenly
you realize just what a huge journey you've embarked upon. A young friend
recently asked me just such a question. Simple. Disarming. "How do you
Now that one set
me back. I could plough in and give an answer born out of experience. I
could pass it off lightly as a joke, and whip off a facetious response.
I could weigh in with in-depth technical details.
But it is a question that deserves some
degree of judicious thought. Perhaps there are some preparatory questions
that should be considered first. Two that immediately come to mind are
"How do you read?" (let alone reading poetry) and "Why do you read poetry?"
Perhaps I should tackle those first.