Back in June I found an interesting article online by USAToday Entertainment Editor Pamela Avila that raises questions about how to read poetry -- questions that are similar to those asked about reading mathematics. I offer samples below:
Here are words from poet Clint Smith, author of new poetry collection Above Ground and writer for The Atlantic:
"Sometimes we're taught to read poetry as if it's a code that we have to unlock or that it's a puzzle or a geometric proof with a specific answer," says "I don't think that that's what poems are or should be." ("Counting Descent" is a mathy poem that explores Smith's family history.)
The beauty of a poem can lie in not knowing.
"It's important to challenge myself to read things that I quote-unquote 'don't get,' " says Traci Thomas, host of the podcast and one-stop-shop for everything books, "The Stacks." "I'm obsessed with this idea of, 'Did I get it? Did I get it right?' And it's a really good exercise for me to not know. The poet is not going to come in and be like, 'Correct! A+ for you.' And that's a valuable skill set for me, to be frustrated or to be unsure."
When you do find meaning in it, though, poetry can be restorative, revolutionary and redemptive.
I end with the opening lines of one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012).
A Contribution to Statistics by Wislawa Szymborska
Out of every hundred people
those who always know better:
doubting every step
-- nearly all the rest,
glad to lend a hand
if it doesn't take too long:
-- as high as forty-nine . . .