There’s something soothing about reading a poem. You’re not being asked to read more than a few pages. You’re not expected to immerse yourself in the trials and tribulations of another living creature. You can devote what time you have; a minute, an hour. You can come back to it again and again, finding some new nuance every time, something else that speaks to you in this particular moment. About this time in March I started on a quest to read more poetry.
This month hasn’t been successful for me at all. Although I have been on holiday so I shouldn’t be too hard on myself – hardly any reading was done then! I started reading Shakespeare’s sonnets one night before I went to bed. I couldn’t think straight. The words were almost too complex for a bedtime read. I felt confused. I moved on to the next one. Maybe that would make more sense. No luck.
I suppose it doesn’t help if you’re reading them silently. For me, poems are meant to be read aloud. Only than can you appreciate the lyrical quality of each word, carefully chosen, the lilt and rhyme of each line. Somehow that all helps poems make sense.
I felt I was rushing the sonnets as a bedtime read. They should be savored in moments when you have time and peace to think.
I’ve also discovered that ereaders are awful for poetry reading. There’s almost an element of competition connected to my ereader; it always tells me how much I’ve read and how long I have to go until I finish the book. That sort of approach is completely counterproductive for poetry. You can spend far longer mulling a poem and its meaning over than you actually spend reading it. I think hard copies are the way to go for this.
But I’m determined to persevere. Maybe not with Shakespeare for the time being. I might try some Walt Whitman next, a writer that is almost completely new to me. I’m not much familiar with any American poetry so this should be a treat!
How do you get on with reading poetry? Have you read any Walt Whitman? Are there any of his poems that you would particularly recommend?