How to Read Poetry

Pontification Preamble

      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. Sorry.
      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 and rules.
       Despite 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.

Disarming Question

      Isn't it 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 read poetry?"
     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.

How do you read?

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