How to Appreciate Poetry in a Right and Proper Way
Every now and again, when I’m feeling intellectually illiterate or a bit lowbrow, (anyone who has read this blog to any extent can understand how frequently that may be) I will resolve the feeling by appreciating poetry.
I just head to my closet, yank out my poetry sack, pull out a big fistful of poetry, and appreciate the hell out of it.
Note: my poetry sack also serves as a repository for random unmatched socks.
When appreciating poetry in a right and proper way, there are a few things that are key:
If you can even remotely understand the meaning of a poem, it isn’t a proper poem. Poems tend to be vague or nebulous. Poets like to throw around a dizzying menagerie of random imagery, designed to confuse and disorient. If you’ve just finished reading a poem and you haven’t vomited in your mouth a bit, it isn’t proper poetry.
When a poet writes a poem about a leaf being blown from a tree, falling to the ground, and being trampled underfoot, he’s not actually writing about a leaf being blown from a tree, falling to the ground, and being trampled underfoot.
The leaf represents hopelessness, and the futility of a life marred by a series of tragic events. The leaf being blown from the tree represents a life spiraling into an alcohol-fueled abyss of despair. The leaf being trampled underfoot represents the crushing weight of an uncaring world and the inevitable grip of death.
A morbid bunch–poets.
Poems are written to evoke an emotional response from their readers. Once after reading a collection of poems by Sylvia Plath, I spent hours curled up on the floor in the fetal position as I sobbed uncontrollably.
An excerpt from Daddy, one of Sylvia Plath’s best-known poems:
If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——The vampire who said he was youAnd drank my blood for a year,Seven years, if you want to know.Daddy, you can lie back now.There’s a stake in your fat black heartAnd the villagers never liked you.They are dancing and stamping on you.They always knew it was you.Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.
Holy Crap! Right?
Note: I don’t want to paint the picture that all poets are emotionally distressed alcoholics with father issues– but the really good ones are.
Be sure that you know the difference. You don’t want to be chatting up a girl who is gushing over her love of Emily Dickinson when you say, “I know, she was smoking hot in Big Bad Mama.” Seriously– it ends badly.