Poetry Month - On Reading Poetry

Poetry often seems like a stiff conversation to bring up with anybody outside of the literary community.

A person who pursues other interests may think these poems aren't relevant to them.

Perhaps the desire was never kindled due to high school teachers who followed the rule of the textbook when the topic of poetry came up.

I was a luckier individual. I had an excellent teacher in high school for my Advanced Placement Language and Writing class who never followed convention when it came to teaching. One of my most prominent memories in that class happened when we reached the poetry unit.

For the college credit test we inevitably would analyze a poem. My class became incredibly concerned as soon as she informed us about this requirement. But the simple advice she gave has forever stood out to me in my memory, and this advice helped me perform better with the poetry section of the exam than any other section. She said,

"Don't try to read too critically with poetry, just look at the word selection and structure and enjoy the language."

That was it, really. I turned off my analytic brain that tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together and instead  give in to the right side of my brain. Poets aren't mathematicians: they aren't giving you a problem that needs a correct answer. They want individual experiences to come in their interpretation. Poetry is expression, and reading poetry is expression also.

Perhaps the message is that poetry is intended to enrich the human condition. I think this message was better spoken in the 1989 film, "Dead Poets Society."

As this poetry week commences, I hope we all get a chance to appreciate poetry for at least one day of the month.


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