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On Poetry

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The other day I had a terrifying (and random) thought. I fear poetry. I thought about it for a few moments because it seemed harsh. What I think I meant was that I fear I don't appreciate poetry the way I should. My reading history is predominantly the novel with a smattering of short stories and I find I don't understand poetry well enough to appreciate it. That lack of appreciation seems to inhibit my ability to really enjoy it.

I don't know much about art but I know what I like. This cliche seems to apply to me and poetry. I might like a poem, but I have no reason if I like it for the right reasons or whether my interpretation of what is says is actually what I'm supposed to take away from it. It's what keep me away from the poetry forums on LitNet.

I feel like I'm standing at the doorway of room in which a party is in progress. Everybody knows each other and have many things in common. As I step to the threshold, you all stop and look at me, one thought on your mind. He isn't coming in here is he? Not welcome. I feel completely unqualified to write a syllable about anybody's poems. I don't vote in the contests because I really can't discern the merits of one poem over another like maybe I could with a short story or chapter from a novel.

Overall I fell like I'm cheating myself of something beautiful.


  1. Virgil's Avatar
    You are definitely cheating yourself Pablo. And really poetry is not as hard as a novel, believe it or not, at least in my opinion. It's condensed and concentrated. Take it one line at a time, and read through the line breaks. I'm not a teacher I'm afraid, so I'm at a loss on how to direct you, but poetry is essentially the art of constructing language. I wish I had a way to just explain it all so that it makes sense. Let me think about it. But you are definitely not alone. Many people get intimidated by the lines being arranged. Just ignore that and read it for the sound and meaning.

    Think of the novel as the art of arranging a story to enlighten experience.

    Think of poetry as the art of arranging language to enlighten experience.
    Updated 02-12-2009 at 10:23 PM by Virgil
  2. Dori's Avatar
    T. S. Eliot once said something about how our appreciation of a poem must precede our understanding of it.
  3. kiz_paws's Avatar
    I hear what you are saying, Pablo, I have felt these insecurities myself. But to pop into the poetry threads and read some of the stuff that is in there is truly a good experience.

    We have some awesome people, not only are they talented but they are quite nice individuals (I just love our poets, all of youze) They view life in a way that I do envy. I cannot 'analyze' a poem if my life depended on it -- but I know what I like, what touches me, what I have felt. And this is what I find in our Poetry section. Sometimes I post to let the poet know that I have read the work. And other times I read it and just do not know what to say. But that is ok too.

    Anyhow, didn't mean to bend your ear this long, but just to say, jump in Pablo -- you may be very surprised.
  4. fix3db's Avatar
    A late reply, but this interests me. I agree with T.S. Elliot.

    I think music has helped me learn how to appreciate poetry. To me, it's about finding a feeling, and dejecting words that lead you astray. This might lead to the sense that the story has been thrown out, but really it just takes some good pouring overs to put the pieces together.

    Just my view, there are example that prove this wrong. For instance some art dejects feeling and turns towards symmetry or cerebrality.

    But, above all, one of the most beautiful things about art to me is that it's always changing. Or more accurately, the piece itself doesn't usually change, but our views on it do. I can listen to an album over and over again and experience it a different way each time. As my realm of thought changes I get new ways to relate to the old things I've always loved. As my experiences change, my mental and physical environment, my mind opens up to what this giants ****ing orb floating through space has to reveal.