Friday, January 06, 2012

Of Poems and Prose

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” - Leonardo da Vinci

Poetry. Most people think primarily of rhyme when poetry is mentioned. I know I used to. When I was a little girl, my idea of fun was creating poetry with (what I thought were) clever rhyming words. I remember learning about the haiku in my grade school years. It didn't matter what my English workbook said, I didn't think that the haiku could possibly be real poetry because it didn't rhyme. I've grown since then, and learned an awful lot more besides. I now know that poetry is more than getting words to rhyme on every other line while still making sense. In fact, poetry isn't really about rhyme at all. It is about imagery, prose, elusive expressions that we must decipher and words painting pictures on our brains. Sometimes these elements come together in a rhyming way within a poem. Sometimes it is free form, without rhyme. Sometimes there is slant rhyme, internal slant rhyme, or some other clever device that a poet will use within his poem to add depth or dimension. Above all, poetry is art, created and used by God. His Word is full of poetry in song, psalms, and prose that is thrilling and unrivaled. Poetry is not something you can simply pick up and read unless you are open to using your imagination to picture words, and using your mind to sort out the nuances of language and form. But don't be put off by the challenges of poetry; the rewards of reading it far outweigh the effort. And don't just read popular offerings (even if they may be good ones), unless you mean to get your feet wet by it; but then delve deeper, find authors that you like, and sort out the type of poetry you are drawn to. Also, don't give up on a poem if you don't understand it, keep reading it until you do, and by all means, just read poetry.
A good place to start is I also credit The Oxford Book of Children's Verse for renewing my interest in poetry. And don't let the title fool you, there's some serious poetry in there, as well as some genuinely funny and imaginative verses. Finally, listening to poetry is a good way to get started, as sometimes it can be ponderous trying to figure out how to read a poem. I loved hearing Dylan Thomas read his poem, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night". His voice lends a sombre and reflective tone to his work, and is a good introduction to hearing poetry read. Read the backstory to the recording and then listen to it.

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