general · poetry

Understanding Poetry

Unfortunately, tomorrow I have to give a presentation on a poem, an issue about which I already talked in a previous post. Normally, this wouldn’t be such a big problem, since, for some reason, I’ve grown out of my fear of giving presentations (I just gave one with a friend two weeks ago that went well, I think). No, the problem here is that it’s about a poem.
Last time – we had to give a similar presentation last semester – I chose a poem with a stricter idea, so that I didn’t need to speculate on what it meant. In this one, as you can see from the text on the other post, there’s so many ideas, and I cannot find any books or websites with a more definite analysis. This bothers me greatly, because I really hate the feeling I get that I’ve done things half way, somehow, like I’m not fully prepared, just because I cannot get to one simple conclusion about it.

Funny enough, even though I’ve been big on writing poetry myself ever since I was a kid, I don’t actually understand other authors’ poems at all. It takes a long time and many readings to get the basic idea, and only with the help of other people’s ideas I can get a deeper reading from the text. This also happens with novels and other texts, but mainly with poetry, since the form itself has the potential to be very unclear. Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoy reading poetry, and I’m currently loving through Alfred Lord Tennyson‘s In Memoriam A.H.H.
My literature teacher, who teaches mainly poets of the Romantic and Victorian periods, and is currently doing research on both Browning and Emily Brontë, told me once that unfortunately she herself doesn’t have the talent for writing poetry, even though she has all the necessary skills to read – and understand – it. (Of course this is a lie, everyone has the talent for poetry, some people just don’t believe in it.) I’ve actually shown her some of mine, and so far she has enjoyed them.

Anyhow. This got me thinking. Does writing poetry mean that you should be able to understand it? Or does understanding poetry mean you should be able to come up with some inspiration as well?
I mean, half of the time I don’t even know what my own poems are about, so… But thinking about it like this, doesn’t it seem a little backwards, or like a badly planned brain capacity, if these two things don’t go hand in hand?



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