On Reading Poetry

I believe poetry means what it needs to mean to the reader. I remember reading poetry while in college and listening to the professor dissect the work. Often I would disagree. I think if a reader takes from a piece something of value, something that might even help internally, then the piece has accomplished a service in that moment for that reader. Even if what the reader took from the literature was not what the author intended. This is simply my opinion.

When someone reads a piece that I’ve written and expresses their understanding of that piece, I appreciate their expression. Even if had nothing to do with what I was thinking while writing it. It doesn’t matter. Not to me.

I’m curious, do any of you also think about this?

Matt

 

58 thoughts on “On Reading Poetry

  1. That is interesting and good to know. I always have a harder time with poetry – I am afraid I don’t get it so I don’t say anything so as to not show my feeling lost with the meaning. Sometimes I feel it is a writers expression of their emotions and so I take the words and think “what a clever way to express what you are feeling” but never say that. I am glad you brought this up so now I know!

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  2. I totally agree with your thoughts on this. For a long time, I used to be afraid to share my thoughts about how a poem made me feel, because there was that fear of interpreting it “wrong”. But, like you said, that’s the beauty about writing… even art. Two people can see the same painting, yet it can evoke a different emotion within each individual. Does that make it wrong? No. As you said, it has served it’s job if it can make someone feel anything at all, even if what is felt was not the intended meaning of the piece. Really appreciate this post! So many can benefit from your thoughts.

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  3. Yes, Matt. I’m the same way. I am often surprised to hear the interpretations of my writing. Many times I feel incredibly misunderstood. But still, the fact that I can touch a few lives means all the world to me.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Sometimes I worry about misinterpreting someone else’s poem, but I personally love it when other people interpret mine, whether it’s what I intended or not. I always other people’s views add something to my poetry. Great post!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Totally agree. I think we see things that are meaningful to us or a different insight than the writer intended or are opened to someone else’s life and viewpoint like a cold cup of water. Writing is like the mind; never totally understood and incredibly complex and nuanced.

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  6. I’d like it if the reader and author got the same meaning out of it, especially when I’m one or the other. That’s communication. Yet poetry is meant to be figurative, evocative, associative, and so on, indirect. And what associations people will bring can change greatly over time and between cultures. So best to think of poetry as an attempt to pass along material for inspiration.

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  7. Yes, it’s something I definitely think about a lot. When we write, we do so from several influences and experiences that may differ from those who are reading and so, the original intent may be lost in the interpretation of a piece because the reader isn’t connected in the same way. I often use allusions to other pieces of work, music, stories, etc. that others may not be aware of. In those cases, the allusions may be missed. However, that doesn’t mean the reader cannot take something personal away from a piece. For me, that’s the bonus – we all get to read a piece of poetry from our own perspectives.

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    • Well stated. I also feel that we read a piece of poetry from our own perspective and while doing so we obviously may reach completely different lines of thinking on what the piece may mean, or even what it may have meant from the author. I’ve always enjoyed this portion of ‘grey’ areas of writing and talking about it with other readers and writers. Cheers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. Yes, it’s what makes interactions with others enjoyable as we get to see things from different perspectives through perspectives we ourselves may not read from. Cheers!

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  8. I think that’s what’s fascinating about poetry and it’s what’s fascinated me about my own. I can write something and it translates completely differently to another either in perspective or perception. I love that so much and it just speaks of the wonders or words and their communicative power.

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  9. This is true- but sometimes I feel a poem needs to be dissected to reveal its true beauty.

    Honestly though- I’m not a poet and I can’t say much. But I’ve found that knowing what I do about dissecting poems and stories has helped me interpret and understand the poems of others more often than not the way they meant it to be read.

    It’s nice to know how you feel though. So much of poetry is subjective that it’s never right to say it’s a one lane road!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, dissect away. However when told a poem means one thing by another human, when they are not the author, it’s often labeled as fact from their point of view. I say, no thanks to that, and that it’s open to interpretation. Unless of course the author left a fucking literal road map to dissecting the poem..at that point it’d be what it is. Until of course, a reader, whom doesn’t know of that road map decides it means something entirely different. In that case, that’s what it means to that reader. Cheers.

      Liked by 2 people

      • What you say is so true. I feel like this could extend to novels and nonfiction too- reading is often such a subjective experience that we tend to forget that we aren’t the only ones trying to interpret it!

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  10. I agree with your view the reader should find what appeals to them. We all can read the same piece and walk away with a different view point. That is why poetry is so subjective to the human mind.

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  11. Writing is another art form. Everything is about prospective, and with art everyone sees it in their eyes and takes away what they may needed to see (or read).

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  12. In my theory class, we discussed the idea that once a piece of writing is shared, it no longer belongs to the author, and so, in that case, I think a piece of writing becomes whatever the reader needs it to be/mean. It doesn’t matter what the author intended.

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  13. Yes I do agree too. The thing is we all reason differently and give different interpretation to the same occurance. So we can’t totally say because you did not see the original resaon I had for writing a piece that makes your thought/interpretation wrong

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  14. I totally agree. when I studied literature analysis, our professor let us interpret the poem the way we wanted. She told us there was no right or wrong answer for poetry we just had to prove to her that we were convinced with our idea.

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  15. I used to love reading poetry. I only read poetry that rhymed because I never took the time to read other types. My english teacher in high school taught us all about poetry and how to write from the heart and how we felt but I could never do that. I could never express myself through my own
    poems because that was my own language no one could understand. If I couldn’t dissect other poems, how would anyone even try to guess what I’m saying?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Perception and interpretation of any prose can vary from reader to reader, and like you stated meaning that the author intended can easily be missed. Another aspect is that of the readers mood and feelings and own life experiences when reading the poem. Like with music the lyrics stay exactly the same for all but we all get something different from the experience.
    When writing we can try to direct the reader down a set path but to do that phrases and words have to have a single meaning. If you want to write like a solicitor to avoid any misinterpretation then I believe creativity inspiration and free flow poetry will be stifled. I write what I feel and what inspires and flows from my mind at that specific time. Even reading it myself weeks or months after writing it I can wonder what I was trying to say when I wrote it.
    Keep interpreting poetry and above all enjoy reading and writing it.

    Liked by 1 person

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