How to Enjoy Poetry: Not a Comprehensive Guide

Written by Angel Sharma

“your handwriting. the way you walk. which china pattern you choose. it’s all giving you away. everything you do shows your hand. everything is a self portrait. everything is a diary.”

― Chuck Palahniuk, Diary

I’m one of those people who firmly believes that everything is a poem. My sleeptalk at 3 a.m. where I turned to my boyfriend and said, “You are sushi. I love sushi. Everything is fish.” is in its own way a silly little poem. I can’t help but love poetry when little glimmers of it can be seen in the cracks of our mundane lives. Perhaps to enjoy poetry we need to depart from the traditional meaning of poetry; Yeats and Keats and Dickinson are all pretty nice, but unlike what our education system believes, they don’t make up the entire genre. It extends beyond the school taught concepts of rhyme and meter and whatever else your 10th-grade English teacher had you studying. Poetry, like any good art, makes you feel something, unnerves you with its honesty, toys with your imagination, drowns you in nostalgia and longing or simply makes you feel a little bit less alone in this big big world. 

Poetry is a bit like So Low: There is something for everyone

I know it sounds a bit cliche but maybe… you just haven’t found the kind of poetry you like yet. After studying the ‘classics’ in school, bored and tired of it, people drift away from the world of poetry with their next encounter being a Rupi Kaur poem on Instagram. And no shade to her, but she just might not be your cup of tea. Let me help you find something you might like! 

Spoken Word was something that sparked my love for poetry in the 8th grade, it felt fresh and new and exciting in a way that written poetry just didn’t feel. I love the manner in which performance and poetry can come together and the liberty that you can take while weaving a narrative that captures the audience in a rather direct way without feeling like you have to go digging around for some secret meaning. This is not to say that Spoken Word poetry is not deep and profound, but isn’t there some sort of genius in cutting to the heart of the matter?

These are a few that I love and enjoy

“And don’t worry about the bits you can’t understand. Sit back and allow the words to wash around you, like music”

― Matilda, Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl was absolutely right, sometimes poetry can seem a bit too weird and abstract, making little to no sense when you start dissecting it word by word. But that’s the beauty of it you see, when start putting each and every word under a microscope you’re standing too close to it to see the picture it creates. Allow it wash over you: think about the images it creates, the emotions it incites, the way all these abstractions lend to the overall framework of the piece. It doesn’t have to be too complicated, sometimes you wil only find one line you like, sometimes you will find a poem that haunts your everyday, sometimes you will dislike everything you read, and somehow it’s all a part of it. Don’t let one poem stop you from  looking for more poetry that speaks to you.

Here comes Treble: Lyrics are poetry too!

Overwhelmed by it all? Take a step back, go back to the poetry we interact with in our daily life and listen to your favourite song. But this time pay special attention to the lyrics, how the words flow with each other, the way the stanzas and chorus knit together a narrative, a message, a feeling. This will allow you to start appreciating poetry you already resonate with and slowly develop the skill of analysing and understanding poetry in a way you may not have before.  From pop to rap to Indie, each and every genre has a gold mine of excellent lyrical artistry waiting for you to explore it.

Get involved, Write your own poetry!

The best way to understand, appreciate and enjoy an art form is to simply get involved in it. Try writing your own poetry, abandon all the rules and just try writing a piece of poetry that you feel connected to. It does not have to be heavy or philosophically profound for it to be good poetry, it just needs to be meaningful to you. One of my absolute favourite poems is about sharing an orange with your friends.

The Orange

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—

The size of it made us all laugh.

I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—

They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy,

As ordinary things often do

Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.

This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.

I did all the jobs on my list

And enjoyed them and had some time over.

I love you. I’m glad I exist.

— Wendy Cope

When you start writing you develop an eye for the craft, you understand the skill and effort that goes into the creation of a poem. You start seeing poetry everywhere, in oranges that you share with your friends, the gibberish you say when half asleep, and all the little insignificant things that never seemed poem worthy before. 

I hope you start writing poetry; your life is worthy of being written about.

If you do write or have started writing know that I would love to read it. Send your work to newspaper@extramuros.nl if you’d like to share, even if you don’t want it published.

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