Nature of the Beast

I love poetry. I love to read it, and I love to write it, although poetry is not my main thing as a writer. I can talk for hours about my love of Rumi, Pablo Neruda, Keats, Byron, and Edgar Allan Poe. I also enjoy some modern stuff as well. So, I do love poetry, but I have one problem with it.

Sometimes, when I sit down to read some poetry, one thing happens from time to time. I don’t get it. I really don’t get it. I come across some verse and when I read it, it seems like word vomit to me. I re-read it again, and again, and again, and nothing makes sense. It makes me ask the question: am I that stupid? Is my reading comprehension not as good as it once was? After thinking about it, I came to a possible answer.

I think the problem for me not getting it (or anyone else for that matter), doesn’t lie with the reader or the poet. It comes from something else entirely. One thing I’ve noticed with a lot of poetry, especially more modern poetry, they are meditations on some little detail about someone’s life. They are a Polaroid picture of words. That’s where the problem is. It’s in the fact that poetry is a very auto-biographical genre. I feel that in order to really understand some of these more enigmatic verses and what not, you would have to be either the poet or some kind of intimate of the poet. For example, there could be a really strange verse about strawberry jam. You read it, and you are confused, but there is a meaning to it. While the poet wrote about strawberry jam, in all actuality, they could have been talking about a particular trauma in their lives, and you might not never know the difference.

That’s the problem, but isn’t a problem that needs to change. It’s very much a “nature of the beast” situation. If you took out that problem, then a lot of poetry would lose that strong sense of emotion, and be a really empty piece of literature. Having those verses that I don’t understand is worth it, if it means that someone writes a really powerful piece. That’s why to get around this problem, I try my best to find my own meaning as to what was being said. I’ve had practice with this. One of my all time favorite singers is Tori Amos, and the woman is known for really abstract lyrics.

Either way it goes, problems or no, poetry is still on the literary menu.


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