For someone who majored in English Lit in college, I’ve always had a funny relationship with poetry. Specifically, and particularly in the past, I’ve loved the idea of it and certain turns of phrase or images will stick with me and lodge in my soul or my brain, but I would often feel like I didn’t “get” the entire poem, and that would drive me nuts. I wanted to completely understand each poem I read, and it bothered me when I didn’t.
Or, in other words, I rather missed the point.
But this past week, while hanging out with a couple of friends, we started reading poems out loud from various collections by poets including Mary Oliver, Seamus Heaney, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Nuala ni Dhomhnaill, I think finally began to understand. Or rather, I began to understand that it’s okay to not understand, and in fact that might be a large part of the beauty of poetry.
Maybe it was because I was with dear friends. Maybe it was because we were reading them to each other in a non-academic setting, with no grade to earn or paper to write. Maybe it was because I’m a few years older and a little more comfortable with the idea that I don’t, that I can’t know everything. I’ll likely never know for sure.
What I do know is that I have a far greater appreciation than I’ve had in the past, and I look forward to reading much more poetry in the future.