Thursday, July 13, 2017

Understanding Poetry

Most people don’t read poetry. Press them about this and they’ll usually say something like, “I don’t ‘get’ it,” or “It’s just so pretentious,” or “The poets have degraded our society’s moral fiber, and they killed my baby.” You should never accept the first two reasons as an excuse. As Matthew Zapruder writes, there’s no reason to believe that poetry isn’t straightforward or that you can’t understand it, even if you regard yourself as a rube: “Like classical music, poetry has an unfortunate reputation for requiring special training and education to appreciate, which takes readers away from its true strangeness, and makes most of us feel as if we haven’t studied enough to read it … The art of reading poetry doesn’t begin with thinking about historical moments or great philosophies. It begins with reading the words of the poems themselves … Good poets do not deliberately complicate something just to make it harder for a reader to understand. Unfortunately, young readers, and young poets too, are taught to think that this is exactly what poets do. This has, in turn, created certain habits in the writing of contemporary poetry. Bad information about poetry in, bad poetry out, a kind of poetic obscurity feedback loop. It often takes poets a long time to unlearn this. Some never do. They continue to write in this way, deliberately obscure and esoteric, because it is a shortcut to being mysterious. The so-called effect of their poems relies on hidden meaning, keeping something away from the reader.”

by Editors, Paris Review |  Read more:
Image: Tamara Shopsin