Reading Poetry: It Begins…

I had this idea to force one of my poetry friends to engage in a conversation with me in which I yell belligerently at them about poetry.

(tweet deleted for not being funny: Someone said that “poetry is that which is lost in translation,” right
What the hell
What does that mean)

Instead I muse about it sometimes on Twitter, and always have some book of poetry or other I’m working through. I enjoyed the Carol Duffy I read, I guess, but honestly, what do I know? I enjoyed some of the Silvina Ocampo, but some of it was just words. I’m reading Anne Sexton and spoiler not enjoying it much.

(tweet deleted for being too long: What is free verse? Are you sure it’s poetry and not just a bunch of words? …is this like modern art, where it’s up to the beholder to decide it’s art, like Duchamp’s urinal or anything Mark Rothko ever touched?)

But now I’m also reading Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook, which I think is a good thing for me to read. What I’ve struggled with is articulating what I feel I don’t know, articulating why I feel ill-equipped to deal with poetry, articulating why I don’t get it. And it’s not like I don’t get all of it. I have favorite poems. But why do I like them? Why do I dislike others? Why are some considered good, and some not? What makes a poem? Exactly what is it that you consider with poetry that’s different from prose or essay? Why do line breaks matter, and why do they vanish and change? Why can two lines be a poem? What intricacies am I missing, since something 200 pages long can also be “a poem”? There must be categories and names for all this, right? I mean, “epic,” but what’s the two-line poem called? Mini? Micro? Wee baby poem? Why did Transformations have to be poetry, versus The Bloody Chamber‘s stories? Why does free verse even exist, man? What’s its deal?

I am being completely serious in my flippancy.

(tweet deleted for being too rude: Yeah, but prose poetry. That’s a scam, right?)

But I really want to hash some of this out and dig under the haze that poetry seems to be under for me. I am going to do that. This is my public declaration of helpless naiveté.

I say all of this as someone who studied poetry* in undergrad.

So I can’t imagine what other people feel.

*Not as my focus, but by way of both English and Spanish literature, I ended up reading and writing about a good amount of poetry. And yet. And yet.