Experiencing Poetry

In one of my poetry circles, one of the members who has been writing poetry for years decided that she couldn’t read, or more importantly “understand” poetry. This, I felt, was a crime of nature and a direct result of how poetry is taught.

I believe that poetry is meant to be felt like A.S.M.R. (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) and create tingles and taps of syllables that cascade from the scalp to the shoulder, and then tickle the hip. I know a good line when I feel a “click,” both with my mind and with my body’s response. 

Consider how you feel or understand poetry. We are taught to analyze this piece of metaphor or to declare this poem uses assonance, and then… if you fit them together it really becomes a formula. Does that make poetry fun? Vibrant? Do you feel it in your bones and chest? I argue that writing and reading poetry doesn’t have to be a formula.

I write and read poetry as if I am listening to music or hearing a book read aloud. I experience poetry—that’s the key difference. Experiencing versus analyzing.  If you write to experience a poem or to have your reader experience your poem, there are all sorts of accidental blessings. That assonance comes out and so does that metaphor—but there is love and pleasure. Your reader will be able to tell the difference. And when you read, you will be able to tell the difference.

My friend in the poetry circle decided to give up on meaning. She has decided to let poetry flow from her and into her. Poetry is in her body and her sound in her marrow. She felt the syllables with her heartbeat. She is much happier, wiser, and her poetry does not seem forced. Instead, her poetry feels authentic. I can experience the voices and feel both the movement and the meaning. I can feel those ASMR lines and let the rhythm carry me away.