Do you have a favorite poem? I recently asked my library colleagues that question, and I got a wide range of answers. Some librarians could rattle of five or six “favorite” poems (when you love poetry it’s hard to pick just one, and your answer also relates to your mood), some told me stories of agonizing over an essay about a poem during their high-school English classes, some sheepishly asked “does Shel Silverstein count?” And some told me they don’t like poetry, or don’t understand it, and so they don’t read it.
All of which are totally valid responses!
As a person who has loved poetry since fifth grade when my teacher, Mr. Strong, read Robert Frost’s poem “Design” to our class, I’m not a stranger to the variety of responses poetry evokes. It’s perceived as difficult to read and understand, or as a puzzle to figure out, or as boring or pointless or entirely too snooty.
To which I say: it depends on what you expect from your poetry-reading experience.
I’ve never read an entire book of poetry and loved, resonated with, or understood every poem inside its covers. There are always pieces I can’t connect with. And that is fine, because what I expect from reading poetry is simply an experience with words that causes me to feel something. A new understanding, a new way of looking at an old understanding, an ah-ha moment between two people (poet and reader) that illuminates a concept in a way I hadn’t previously considered.
Reading poetry isn’t a liner, plot-driven experience. It’s different than reading a novel or a memoir or a book about photography. It asks different things of you as a reader, just as graphic novels or cookbooks or self-help books do. Poetry shows you a new perspective on a topic and then asks you if you understand it; if you don’t, it’s ok because when you turn the page there will be another poem asking again.
April is National Poetry Month, a perfect time to pick up a book of poetry. You can find poems throughout the Orem Library, but this month there’s also a display in the south wing, with books to try and with some of our librarians’ favorite poems. Stop by and check out a book, or take a poem home with you, and see what connections you make.
Written by Amy, Assistant Librarian