I’m curious. When was the last time you read a poem:
b) at all?
If your answer to the first question was “Umm…” and the second was “Does a Leunig cartoon count?” then I invite you give it a try. You may surprise yourself and you just might delight someone else.
I have a clear and cherished memory of an evening many years ago when my gorgeous friend sat me down and read T.S. Eliot’s The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock aloud. I can still recall the vigour in her voice as she began:
“Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table…”
Although she probably doesn’t realise it, I consider that act of reading to be one of the greatest gifts she’s ever given me.
Not only did she initiate a deeper relationship between me and T.S.E. which continues to this day, but by speaking the words of this poem to me, by giving them voice, she raised them from the page and brought them to life in a way that has itself brought unexpected gifts.
Since that night, I have often read poetry aloud. Mostly I read it to myself and to whichever ghosts happen to float in the quiet corners of my room. I do this because poems sound better aloud. I do it to experience the richness of language through sight, speech and sound. I do it because when I read aloud, I always find more, learn more, wonder more. And I do it for another reason too.
I may not be able to prove it, but here’s what I believe.
When you recite the lines of a poem, you tune in to the rhythm of language, its twists, its tangles, its unpredicted skips. You become aware of the way certain words rub or squeak against each other, while others nuzzle the mind into finding new allusions. It’s an experience that engages you, body and mind, spirit and grit. Just like writing itself.
Poems are enclosed explosions, condensing language while increasing meaning. In their density and complexity, they are alive with potential and rich in inspiration.
You just have to listen for it.
Find a poem. Find a friend. Read the poem to the friend, aloud and with as much gusto as you can muster.
Or find a different kind of poem. Find a quiet place. Read the poem aloud, just to yourself. Listen as you speak the words you need to hear.
Listen for the gifts poetry can bestow. And share your experience below.