How to Read Poetry

FernandaMorote, Staff Reporter

Confused by poetry written eons ago? Fed up with being unable to understand the nuanced layers of literary genius weaved irreversibly into every literature teacher’s lessons? Despair no longer! The solution has been hiding right underneath your nose.

Begin by reading the poem. Then read it again. You should by this point have found some faint idea of a theme, or perhaps you have recognized a literary technique here or there. No? Read it again. Read it from the bottom back to the top. Read it at an angle.  Read only the verbs. Not sure if that’s a verb? It’s probably the poet using poetic license to create a word that doesn’t exist.

(If you are interested in obtaining a poetic license, please submit your application to the nearest poet, whether he or she be alive or dead. If he or she is dead, simply place it on top of the grave.)

When you have struggled and failed to get a grasp on the magnificent work of art, just sit back and listen to your teacher explain it to you. The teacher is always, irrefutably correct, eleven times out of ten.

Consider each line with utmost respect for punctuation, pronouncing the end of each line prominently, the end of each stanza with finality. The poet’s objet d’art is meant to be read in a certain way, so do not attempt to change the meaning by so carelessly ignoring structure, or reading the poem in a manner most comfortable to you.

If the poem has no punctuation, remember to take a deep breath before you begin reading for it is forbidden to pause in the middle of a phrase that has no punctuation.

Theme always relates to how man has become insensitive to nature, or perhaps even to other men. Remember that theme is never a single word, for single words are reserved for the ignorant who do not stand at the same intellectual stature as we. Theme is always an all-encompassing phrase which chastises and warms every heart which lays eyes upon it.

Everything is a symbol even when it isn’t. Of course, your teacher didn’t expect you to catch onto the fact that the poet was going through a divorce and his son was on the brink of death, which is exactly why he chose to use that specific word. Also, don’t forget to know when the poem was written. This is key.

And have fun with it! Unless, of course, the tone calls for sympathy, depression, moroseness, the questioning of one’s moral code or existence, or something along those lines. After all, poetry isn’t that difficult to read.


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