TIPS FOR THE ENJOYMENT OF POETRY
1. Read it aloud
3. Read carefully
4. Follow the leader
5. Read it over
6. Forget the
7. Consider it as a
- 1. Read it aloud
- Poetry is word-music, an art which paints pictures with words and
sounds. Since the sounds greatly increase the effect of the words,
poems must be read aloud to provide your fullest enjoyment.
Silent reading just won't do poetry justice--it's like
trying to enjoy a concert by reading the score.
Reading aloud enables the poem to
reproduce the music of rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, assonance,
and harmony to enhance the emotional colors of the words.
Make your first reading a silent one, if you like, to get a
"feel" for the content--but you should read aloud to
experience the full potential of poetry.
- 2. Be receptive
- Read poetry with an open mind. Try to match your mood to the tone
of the content. Be receptive to the word music of the
poet--let him speak through you, as if the words were your own.
This positive approach will allow the poem an opportunity to awaken a
satisfying emotional response. Unless you're willing to have your feelings
aroused the way good poetry can stir them, wait until a better time.
Should the poem still fail to "deliver" after your best
receptive effort, you needn't feel a sense of inadequacy--just as we
differ in musical tastes or sense of humor, we each have our own unique
artistic criteria for the appreciation of poetry. You cannot expect to like
every poem, because no-one
Look for and enjoy poetry that does something special for you, but
you must be in a receptive frame of mind to allow it the opportunity.
- 3. Read Carefully
- Relax, slow down; there's no rush. Read with understanding, rather
than speed. Speak the words crisply, with good diction, especially the beginning consonants.
Don't read with monotony or lack of inflection. Words and phrases can flow like a sparkling stream
or be jarring--let them do it their way. As you read the lines, feel their excitement, their joy, their
sadness; sense their look, smell and taste.
Only by reading carefully will you experience an emotional response
to the word sounds and images by which the poet transfers his
sense impressions to you.
- 4. Follow the Leader
- Pretend you're dancing with the poem and following its lead.
Slow down or stop where the punctuation indicates. Hesitate ever so slightly at
run-on line endings and pause between stanzas.
Don't impose a mechanical "tee-dum tee-dum" meter in your reading--let the
words of the poem provide the rhythm and the meter will fend nicely for itself.
Enjoy the poetic music as you dance, as well as the visual aspect of a poem's layout
on the page, which often represents a careful preparation by the poet to complement
the texture of his work.
- 5. Read it over again
- Very often we are unable to fully appreciate a poetic work on the
first reading. Maybe a distracted mood was interfering with our receptive
antennae. Perhaps there are elusive undertones or subtleties
not initially perceived which could make a world of difference in
our response to subsequent readings.
The incremental appreciation of art and music--of which poetry is both--is
dependent on repetition. What may not have impressed us at all on first
exposure may become a beloved favorite if repeated. So if a poem failed to
"grab" you the first time, give it another chance. Read it over
- 6. Forget the technical aspects
- Don't be overly concerned with the technical aspects of poetic
construction. It's not vital to understand the metrical
variations. The definitions of esoteric terminology are no more necessary for
pleasurable reading than to be a connoisseur of vintages in order to
enjoy a glass of wine. The only thing that matters is whether or not you
like the poem; you don't have to analyze
it--let the English professors do that.
On the other hand, if you feel such additional knowledge will enhance
your pleasure, by all means, pursue it.
- 7. Consider it as a whole
- There is truth in the saying that a poem is only as good as its
weakest line. A well-written piece of poetry--meaning one which is
successful in imparting effective word
images and sounds to the reader--results from the unity of its segments
with the whole, whether it be a simple sonnet or a sweeping epic.
We all like to remember and quote favorite lines which have a
memorable meaning or beauty of expression. Other lines, words and
phrases, however, which have little apparent significance by themselves, can be integral
components in the context of their relationship to the rest of the poem,
The obvious conclusion is that the ultimate worthiness of a poetic
composition is dependent upon the contributions made by each word and
every line to the complete work. Therefore, don't fragmentize the
poem in your reading, but evaluate and enjoy it as a whole.
Tips for the Enjoyment of Poetry
Copyright © by Robert G. Shubinski, 1996-2017
Created October 26, 1996
Last modified February 15, 2017
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