Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It has been many years since I studied poetry as an English major. So I thought I would read a little about poetry itself since our PVNWG author this month is Mary Oliver. Here are the things I thought most powerful (and helpful) from my reading:

From Molly Peacock, How to Read a Poem...and start a Poetry Circle

Poets and readers of poetry are those who have felt intensely and thought deeply.

Poetry is always tuned to paradoxes.

The apprehension of a poem is a sensuous mental activity. And understanding is gained just the way a love relationship is deepened--through the blind delight of examining it with the senses and the intellect all at once.

It can be a great comfort to hear our own voices emanating through the letters of words that come from someone else.

Poems considered as "talismans." Talisman--an object that gives its bearer a special hold on life.

...that inverted sense of being listened to by a poem, although you are listening to it.

Duende--a word Frederico Garcia Lorca uses for the great devilish spirit in poems.

What we hold sacred is often related to our bodies.

Poetry--a respect for the conscious act of living.

Poetry is the art that offers depth in a moment, using the depth OF a moment.

You can FEEL a poem without really understanding it.

A poem is made with words, but is only 1/3 a verbal act. It is equally an auditory and a visual art, which we take into our bodies as well as our minds.

Reading poetry gives you an internal massage.

As you meet your own experience through someone else's articulation of it, you are refreshed by having a companion in your solitude.

Lyric poems seem to stop time. (Lyric poetry is uttered in the first person.)

Three parts of a poem
The Line: the music, intuitive, a skeleton, holds the poem up. Sounds like emotions. Line means rhythm, sometimes rhyme, appeals to one's instinctive understanding
The Sentence: thoughts of the poem, appeals to our intellectual pleasure
The Image: the visual art of the poem, its central nervous system, the poet's vision, word pictures, both instinctive and constructed, a "two way mirro" between the other two ways of seeing

Each poem has two musics, the line and the sentence

Imagery flares across the sky of the poem as the two musics play.

How the poem feels to your tongue is the embodiment of the feelings that the sounds evoke.

The rhythms of lines can walk the sharpest yet un-nameable feelings through the poem.

There are really only two subjects of lyric poetry, love and death.

Poet or "scop" in Old English (pronounced shope) means "maker."

Poetry has been called the "art of naming."

From Edward Hirsch, How to Read a Poem (and Fall in Love with Poetry)

Emily Dickinson's compelling test of poetry:
"If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire could ever warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way that I know. Is there any other way."

Reading poetry is a way of connecting--through the medium of language--more deeply with yourself even as you connect more deeply with another.

The reader completes the poem, bringing to it his or her own past experiences.

You are "really" reading poetry when you feel encountered and changed by a poem.

The sound of the words is the first primitive pleasure in poetry.

Poets speak of the shock, the swoon, and the bliss of writing, but why not also speak of the shock, the swoon, the bliss of reading?

Looking forward to our discussion of Mary Oliver on the 28th!

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