Understanding Poetry – Why You Don’t Have To

Understanding Poetry – Why You Don’t Have To

I have a friend whom I regularly meet at the pub. We catch up, share stories and reminisce about the days of our youth. One night, we spoke about books. He told me he didn’t like to read, the pacing of it wasn’t for him. As much as I tried to convince him to sit down and give a book a go, he refused. Poor lad hasn’t read a single book in his life – well, I’ll add, actually, he did say “The last book I read was Facebook.”

Oh dear.

I suggested a few poems for him to have a look at. They’re shorter than a novel, easier to digest and because of the meter he might find it easier to read. He told me he doesn’t like to read poetry because he doesn’t understand it.

Now, I found this confusing. I understand there’s a few poems out there you read and afterwards you are thinking to yourself “What was that about?” There’s metaphors and phrases that go right over my head. And I understand that it can be somewhat frustrating to leave without a meaning from the poem, instead left with a jumble of words in your head.

But, for me, that’s okay. I love poetry and for many reasons. Sometimes, I don’t return with anything about the poem I just read but I can still enjoy the piece. Why? Because of the sound. The meter. The phrases. The lexical choice, the syntactical length, the pauses, the stops, the rhymes, the alliteration, the assonance, the plosive and fricative words, the liquid movement, the ebb and flow. Half of poetry is to enjoy the sound, even if the rest doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand what makes an orchestra come together but I still enjoy the sound. I don’t understand what a lot of art means but I still enjoy the sight. And I definitely don’t understand what Old Tom puts in his all day breakfast sandwich but I love the taste.

I couldn’t tell you the number of poems I’ve read where my mind has been left in the middle of the sea without a map or a compass but still given a melodic wind to keep me going. If it sounds good,  I’ll like it and it’ll stick with me.

Anyway, my friend still had none of that. He bought me a three shots of tequila, a martini, a glass of house red and then told me that badgers don’t exist.

8 thoughts on “Understanding Poetry – Why You Don’t Have To

  1. Agreed! You don’t always need to understand the complexities of something to be able to enjoy it 🙂 The special thing about poetry is that they don’t bind the readers to a certain interpretation…it all depends upon the perception of the reader.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a revelation! Many times I came into art exhibitions, and got intimidated by it because I didn’t understand what’s the concept behind them. And now I understand that it’s okay to love something (especially artworks) without any specific reason 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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