by Agampreet Kalra
Before we begin with how poetry should be read, maybe we should start by asking what it actually is. So, what is poetry? Is poetry a set of words sewn together to rhyme? But how may that be when poems have free verses too? Is it a story? But it isn't direct enough to be called a story. So, what is poetry?
Poetry is something that reflects the texture of a heart. A story which is too exposed to not be experienced. It may be the smallest of stories in English literature, compiled with fewest of words and filled with such utter passion and emotion, that if ever there is any fault found in them, it is discharged. It can depict the most striking depth of human emotions. And why do we read poetry? Well, in the words of Sir John Keating, Dead Poets’ Society, "[we] read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering, those are the noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for."
We read poetry to feel, to be connected and to feel the desire of being human. The ability to sense our surroundings, and be acquainted with the world, is simply another feeling to be a part of. Poetry can only be felt. The words themselves have too much life. This makes the experience of reading poetry lively, and extremely appealing to the senses.
And now, for the main question, how should we read poetry?
It should be noted that a piece of poetry is an exquisite masterpiece. It is, therefore, the nature of a good poem, to slip into one's soul without any due notice, and provide complete comfort to one's senses and emotions. Since it does not give any space to assumptions, one should note assume while reading any piece of poetry they consider an exquisite masterpiece. Do not assume that the poem is about another poem, or a single theme, or always about the poet's life. Don't control it with your curiosity and your thought process. Don't pedestrianise it. Do not babysit its belonging. Do not leash it in the unimaginative.
A poem has its own way - don't interlink it's existence with something else. Rather, you may analyse it - for instance, does this poem believe in love? Is the object of attention of this poem innate or is it distant? Is it connected with vitality? Does the poem feels like it belong in the private world? Does the poem live in my world, or does it belong to a world beyond history, beyond the Sun and everything I have ever known? Is this poem too beautiful that a city can be trapped in it forever?
Poetry has its own language - it cannot be read if you are not willing to decipher it. It should be read in such a way that it's meaning and emotions discharge themselves effortlessly and without your knowledge. If poetry is to be read, let it be read without any equipment and only with pure consideration.