Friday, March 14, 2008

Poetry Tips Question 2: What Are Some Tips For Reading Poetry?

Thanks again to my readers who responded to five questions in February that will be posted one by one on Fridays throughout March into early April! Here are their responses to

Question 2: What are some tips for reading poetry?

Jim Murdoch responds with:

Persist. If you don't like one poet's style then look for another.

Barbara Smith responds with:

Read it out loud. Discuss it with poetry mad friends/colleagues. Maybe read more of that person's work. If it doesn't do it for you, try someone else. But you usually get in after a while of trying (took me ages to get into T. S. Eliot and then some).

Rob Mack responds with:

If you are new to poetry, getting hold of a good anthology is worthwhile. It will introduce you to a wide variety of poets and you can follow up on the ones you like best.
I also think it’s best not to be too hasty to criticise a poet because you find his/her work ‘difficult’ (or too simple, in some cases). It might be simply that you need to read more and learn more about where a particular poet is coming from.

Juliet Wilson responds with:

Subscribe to some literary journals that publish poetry. If there are individuals published there who particularly appeal to you then buy their books or try to hear them read sometime. Read the poetry that appeals to you, not the poetry you feel you should read. Having said that, extend your comfort zone all the time, read poets recommended by those you admire

Ben Wilkinson responds with:

If you're a beginner? Take it easy. Poetry doesn't have to be difficult, even if it's complicated. Remember that poetry usually works in a different way to prose. You probably won't fully get what the poem is saying in the first read (though if you don't get the poem at all after a few reads, that's most probably the poem's fault!) Most people I know who read little poetry usually complain about not understanding it, or its being 'difficult' or 'complex'. But it's no more complicated than a novel really, it's just that most of us have been reading novels (or at least prose of some kind) since we were kids. The more poetry you read, then, the more you'll come to understand it and enjoy it, and the more you'll appreciate its clever use of language; its combination of sound with sense. Give poems a chance: read them, leave them, come back to them. For one thing, they're much better suited to our busy lifestyles than the cumbersome novel: you can read a good few poems on the bus, train or tube, or whenever you've got ten minutes free and want something interesting and intelligent to occupy yourself with. If you're new to contemporary poetry, a good place to start is with poets that make good use of colloquial, everyday language: Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy, Paul Farley and Roddy Lumsden spring to mind as very strong poets in this area, among others. Some of those poets were definitely the ones who made me sit up and take notice of the exciting things going on in poetry today.

Cuitlamiztli Carter:

Read through it once just for cadence & word choice, then scan againfor meaning (of course, you will be unconsciously drawing meaning nomatter what). One could write a book on how to read poetry (Mr. Bloomhas, of course), but I think a basic tip is that one shouldn't lookimmediately for the meaning, or even scan intentionally to see wherethe rhymes and rhythms fall, or what the meter is, or any technicalbits. Just run through the poem, preferably out loud, to get theimmediate impact.

Hazel B. Cameron:

If you don't understand it after reading it, try and listen to the poet reading it. If you still don't get it, probably best to choose another poem.
One bad poem does not mean all bad. Read the poem not the poet.
Thanks for reading, please stop by tomorrow for another featured blog…


christopher cunningham said...

I'd say pay attention and read deeply.

poets should be choosing every word carefully in their attempt to find exactly the right one.

close reading is how we repay that work. and don't let a short poem fool you: sometimes they contain giant truths...

Poet Hound said...

Amen Mr. Cunningham!