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First things first: English teachers of the old-school Orthodox variety, gifted literary critics, and serious professors of poetry and the analysis thereof: for your own sanity, please avert your eyes.
A few weeks ago, I had a funny conversation with my husband about what it means to read poetry.
My husband is exceptionally smart. He reads often — good books, books by people who are generally recognized as intellectuals — and he reads well. But, like a lot of people, he sometimes finds himself mystified by poetry.
Me? I find myself *more* mystified by the way he wants to read poetry — as if he’s part of a search party, focused and determined, looking for metaphor and meaning like he’s hacking through the jungle with a machete.
(I think he might have learned this method in English class).
Meanwhile, I can’t imagine reading poetry like that, at least not for pleasure. Which I guess is because I’m the kind of fragile, flaky soul who could lie on my back by a river for two hours straight, listening to it unspool. (Yes, really).
So I scratched out some words about how I read it — how I read it when it’s making me happy. And then I took those words and tucked them between two volumes of poetry on a shelf in my local library.
You might call them instructions, although like most instructions, they should come with a hearty invitation to be ignored. Still — maybe they’ll give you a new way of looking at that fluffy, high-minded stuff you think of when you think about poetry.
(But maybe you shouldn’t tell your high-school English teacher.) 😉
I am going to show you
how to read poetry.
There is no trick to it,
you just let it fall over you,
and keep falling,
until at last
some green thing
in the soil of your soul