Many people think they don't like poetry because they think they don't "get it." As it happens, enjoying poetry is easier than your classroom experience may have led you to believe. This guide offers suggested poems as well as secondary readings to deepen your enjoyment and understanding.
April is National Poetry Month! In celebration, the Books We Read team posted a series on the poetry we enjoy, and why we enjoy poetry in the first place.
Neil Gaiman's The Day the Saucers Came translated into American Sign Language.
Poetry is most easily defined as a work of language that calls attention to its qualities as language, not just the information it conveys. The qualities of language that poems call attention to often have to do with the sound of words and phrases (like rhyme and rhythm), as well as the capacity of words to call up vivid images or to make comparisons (metaphor and simile). Perhaps this accounts for why poetry can seem so obtuse and confusing sometimes: some poems are deliberately hard to translate into a coherent message or "normal" language so as to force the reader/listener to approach the language in a different way, to enjoy the sound of the words and the associations they call up for their own sake.
Related to this occasional difficulty of poetic language, I believe that one of the main reasons that people don't like poetry is that they think they aren't appreciating it "correctly." That's probably because most people's exposure to poetry is in the classroom, and so reading a poem makes them feel like they're back in the classroom, being evaluated on how well they "get it." I think it's that feeling that a lot of people have at art museums (or at least I have it at art museums sometimes): feeling like the thing you're looking at should be speaking to you in some way, but it's not, so you wind up feeling not just bored but also inadequate somehow. You stroke your chin and try to look like you're having a good time, all the while wondering how long you're supposed to stare at this weird picture before it's acceptable to move on. Read more...
--Nick Allred, Graduate Specialist
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