How to Read Poetry – Beginning Thoughts

I hit a writing wall. Not a physical wall. Not writer’s block. A wall of distraction.

Coffee in hand, I lay my pen against journal pages to create quick, small bits of poetry and watch, disappointed as my pen slips from the truth of poetry into paragraphic opinion and personal dogma. In my manner, I stroke three quick lines to indicate end of that thought and begin again. Pen flows lovely for a second before twisting away into prosaic statements of whine and rant; words tainted by the I of Me. I slam into a wall of I need to write this mundane thing before I can write what I want.

In poetry, bits of poet stick to phrases but most, if not all, great poets do not dwell on themselves except as vehicles for metaphor and analogy. The poem resounds with the poet’s voice but the speaker and poet are not one. Universe and life provide the themes for great poetry.

In prose, I write not of poetic prose, the great fiction and rare non-fiction works soaring on wings of metaphor and analogy but of ubiquitous, scientific-style prose that attempts no more than to transfer a set of idea from writer to reader; in prose the writer not only speaks but speaks to put in the reader’s mind part of the writer’s mind.

Poetry attempts truth in invocation; prose in evocation; poetry by providing catalyst for inspiration; prose by description of insight.

My insight I trust but lack confidence of my prose to describe that insight accurately; to paint it completely enough to resonate. I much prefer writing poetry but suffer a need to write prose. I must eliminate the distraction of opinion that soils my verse. I need to write blah, blah, prose.

I do not look forward to this exercise. My prose I find wanting – inauthentic – soapboxish.

The above should provide fair warning. In the next few days I shall attempt to document and publish my views on How to Read Poetry. Opinions on other current events may leak into the mix but the primary focus, at the moment, seems to be How to Read Poetry.

To date, I’ve done little more than collect a few research notes on the topic. My way of saying I’ll be making this up as I go along.

I will not be attempting essay form. I love to read well formed essay and would like to provide same but have never acquired the skill. Instead, taking a cue from W. A. Auden’s wonderful The Dyer’s Hand, I will assemble somewhat related fragments to provide peeks into my approach to reading poetry … do not mistake this as a claim that I read poetry well but as a claim that I know how I would like to read poetry … the fact is, like everyone else I struggle to read verse well.

I find the topic, How to Read Poetry, of the highest importance, the fact that we do not read poetry well means we do not listen to stories, watch movies or hear news stories well. Our culture suffers our casual attitude toward language. With luck, I will be able to communicate why I think this. I should probably have mentioned that up front where more people would have read it. But I did not. This is one of the reasons my prose sucks.

© 2009 Chrome Poet

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