Briar DeHaven is a poet, writer, and tech head who hails from the South Dakotan prairie. She is Digital Marketing Executive for the Asheville Citizen-Times, assistant editor for...
Most poems can't be fully digested in one reading. This is just the facts. The magic and mystery of a poem is revealed layer by layer. Ever re-watch a complicated movie only to understand something you didn't the first time around? Same with a lot of poetry. You just gotta give it a second go and maybe even a third.
Despite what your high school English teacher led you to believe, most poetry isn't meant to be wrangled into meaning. Rather, how does the poem make you feel? The language, linebreaks, crescendo, and landing....it's all there to evoke from you a feeling. T.S. Eliot said, “Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood."
I read a lot of poetry that simply doesn't stir my soul. NBD. I just move on, because for every one poem that doesn't speak to me, a thousand others are waiting to stop me dead in my tracks, trip my beating heart, and flood me with understanding beyond recognition.
Poems are meant to be spoken. Poetry has a rhythm, a drum beat, a score that is consciously chosen. Each word is placed with painstaking precision. Every comma is intentional. Even the empty space creates a form that, when done well, calls out like a voiceless spektor searching. When you read the poem out loud, you give the voiceless spektor a voice.
Sorry about that f-bomb, but FUCK! Give poetry a chance. Poems are the desperate call to the sleeping world, and poets are warriors against the silencing of the soul. We are doing important work that is largely ignored. Pick up a book of poems and try....try to find even one line that speaks to a tombed part of yourself. Share that one line again and again. Memorize it. And then try, please, to find another. Soon you will appreciate the weightiness of words and you will count yourself among the lucky few who read poetry.
Galway Kinnell, The Book of Nightmares
Wislawa Szymborska, View with a Grain of Sand
Lucille Clifton, The Book of Light
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Elizabeth Bishop, Geography III
H. D. Helen in Egypt
Gwendolyn Brooks, Annie Allen
Rainer Maria Rilke, The Selected Poems
Rumi, The Essential Rumi
James Wright, Shall We Gather at the River