Beware of Poetry?


Here I am, a little late in the day, but finally capable of saying something useful. I spent two fine hours this morning at a poetry workshop hosted by Anythink Wright Farms, one of the Adams County, Colorado libraries. I’ve studied poetry for a long time, so why did I need more? For one thing, poetry is a huge empire, and no one knows all of its territory. Every group and every leader offer me something new. Often that fresh approach is worth thinking about before I try to pin it down on paper–or screen as it is here.

            One takeaway from this morning was hearing stories about the damage teachers can do by expecting a writer new to poetry to fuss with technicalities. It just doesn’t work that way. Does a student driver need to know how to repair an engine? No, she learns to drive from place to place without the distraction of the mechanics. Maybe she enjoys the scenery, the feel of the vehicle’s response, and the freedom that she experiences.

            If, like far too many people, you were put off poetry because it seemed archaic or too complicated, please try it again in your own good time. And believe me, it can be a good time. Dissection kills, so let the poems breathe or wiggle or dance, whatever allows them to live on the page. Let words nestle together or jump rope. Read aloud if you can without housemates sneering. If poetry is new to you, begin with an anthology for the variety. A gateway collection might be Good Poems – Selected and Introduced by Garrison Keillor. You won’t love it all, but something just might repair the damage done by a clumsy introduction.


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