“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” Nathaniel Hawthorne
When I was a kid, I loved poetry. I read Wordsworth, Shakespeare’s sonnets, Emily Dickenson. I’m not sure when I stopped reading poetry, but I suspect that it was around the time we started analyzing it in high school.
From the perspective of adulthood, I understand why we were analyzing it. Poetry generally has complex layers of language that can be discerned on deeper analysis and exploration.
Just because I get it doesn’t mean I agree with it. To me, poetry was about emotion, and how it made me feel. Analyzing poetry felt the same way criticizing art did. It felt like the magic trick was being revealed. I know magic isn’t real, but that doesn’t mean I’m looking for the sleight of hand or the trapdoor. I want magic to be real, in the same way I want poetry and art to have that layer of magic.
As a writer, it’s important to understand how technique and language create that magic. If we’re going to write, we need to understand. Yet in my high school classes, our goal wasn’t to create anything. I still enjoy writing really bad poetry, and I don’t understand how to create anything like the magical ones I most enjoy.
I’ve started reading poetry again, partly because I think it’s important, but also because it was something I enjoyed so much, once upon a time. I had a notebook in which I faithfully transcribed some of my favorite poems, and I read them so many times that I memorized some of them.
“Ode,” by William Wordsworth was my favorite poem growing up, and I’ve included a link to it so that you can enjoy too.
Do you like poetry? What’s your favorite poem?