In high school, I hated poetry. In university, I put up with it and tried to appreciate it to support a friend, who’s a poet. Now, I’m eager for the annual publication of the Floodgate Poetry series.
Let me rephrase that: In high school, I was told what I was supposed to like and how I was supposed to interpret it. In university, I was introduced to poetry that was different from the “greats” and allowed to think independently, so long as I acknowledged the academically accepted interpretations. Now, I know that there’s poetry that I can relate to and I know that I’m allowed to enjoy it on my own terms.
I have vivid memories of being really frustrated with a poem in high school. It was set in “blue” and misty weather, which delighted me. In my head, it sounded relaxing and peaceful. But, I was told that I was wrong. Not that I misunderstood, but that I was *wrong*. It was meant to be sad and morose – a woeful day, not a peaceful day.
That was when I decided that I hated poetry. I understood that the poet was trying to use words and scenery to try and convey a particular feeling. I understood that the imagery was typically used to suggest sadness. But, I also understood that my opinion didn’t matter – and that made me angry.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the greats or the work required to string together a limited number of words in a confined compartment of beats, patterns, and, if desired, rhymes. I just don’t feel the need to read things just because they’re classics. Poetry or novel, I’d rather not force myself to read something just because I “should.”
I don’t have enough interest in the majesty of a Shakespearean sonnet to get past the frou-frou language and lovey-dovey themes. I want to read something that speaks to my soul, and words alone can’t reach me that deeply. I want imagery that I can visualize, allowing my mind to explore the nuances of what I’m reading. I also need the freedom to explore the idea that the poem might mean something different to me and to you and to the poet. Sometimes we learn the most when seeing where the differences lie.
If you love the greats, the classics, and the frou-frou, then dive in and devour them. If you want to explore the poets’ world and their intended meaning, then do so with relish. But, let me look at things with my own eyes; let me find the themes that entice me; and, let me love poetry in my own eclectic, un-scholarly way.