Over the weekend, an editor made a comment on Facebook that got me thinking about the question, how did you come to poetry?
My response is not an academic reply. The mechanics of poetry make the art good and great. But the best way to ruin poetry for young minds or new readers, is to have people study the architecture of a poem–its meter, rhyme, enjambment, stanzas, etc. Is this the way you learn about a new home? When you enter a friend’s home for the first time, do you inquire as to house’s foundation (is it a slab foundation?), framing (stick frame or post and beam?) or roof (you get the point)? So why do educators insist on destroying poetry for young readers? Make the home inviting. Make poetry inviting.
As a poetry reader, I approach a poem (or body of poems) as I would a new home of a friend I just met. I enter the door, look at the paintings on the wall, run my fingers along the spines of the books on the shelf, scan over the vinyl collection beside the stereo and sit on the futon near the front window. This is how to see what the poet sees through the window of the poem. This is when I see what the poet says about love, injustice or various other subjects and topics.
Not all poems are created equal. Sometimes I get the impression that someone or something is shouting at me from an open door. I tend to quicken my steps along the street and find a more inviting home–a more inviting poem.
Poetry is not something I studied in school. There were, of course, the required literature classes, and some teachers that opened the landscape of great poetry and prose. But for me, someone left the back door to the house of poetry open and I slipped in to explore. A house doesn’t seem so intimidating or formal when you enter, casually, from the backdoor.