On learning to like poetry

I never write poetry because I don’t consider myself angsty enough. Sure, I get down sometimes, but I don’t think that’s the overarching theme of my life. I also consider myself someone who doesn’t really like poetry. It just doesn’t do anything for me when I sit down and read it. I think about all those stereotypical coffee shop poets, and I don’t feel like I have any way to connect with that at all.

However. A lot of my favorite memories have to do with poetry my mom read to us. She and I still bounce some of those poems off one another as Mike and my dad watch with bemused expressions.

I’m hiding, I’m hiding and no one knows where
For all they can see is my toes and my hair
I just heard my father say to my mother,
“But darling, he must be here somewhere or other!”

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

There once was a puffin just the shape of a muffin,
And he lived on an island in the deep blue sea,
He ate little fishes, which were most delicious,
And he ate them for breakfast and he ate them for tea.

And yet, if you were to ask me if I like poetry, I would probably shrug and say no. I think the difference is that I don’t like to read poetry to myself. Heck, I don’t even really like reading the Psalms. I do like reading poetry out loud. And I like hearing it. I just get distracted when I start reading poetry to myself. It goes something like this:

I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

I sit there with the book open. And then I realize that I have read that stanza two times and I have no idea what it means. So I read it again, this time with purpose, and still my mind wanders. So I try one more time and I get distracted by the word “harp,” which makes me think about the harpist at church on Sunday and I start thinking about men in little diver suits playing the harp and somewhere out in the Caribbean I realize that I lost track of the poem again.

In college, I read In Memoriam with a professor who helped us to dig into the nuances and references of it, and I really enjoyed it. So it’s not that I can’t get poetry at all. It’s partly that poetry takes more effort that I generally care for, maybe because I’m not completely wired for it.

I have been thinking about poetry the past few days because I went to a seminar about it last week – poetry programming at the library. A few poems were read aloud, and I really enjoyed them. My favorite was Wage Peace. The seminar last week has got me thinking about ways I can incorporate more poetry in my life.

Maybe there’s a poetry lover in me waiting to come out after all.

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