Saying I love poetry is an understatement.
I adore it. I obsess over it. I read it and I’m pretty sure my soul starts salivating. When I’ve finally ingested a particularly meaningful piece, my soul digests it and it becomes part of me.
I’ve discovered that poetry, unlike any other form of literature, feeds me and moves me in a very similar way to love.
In my life, poetry is love.
I know many people don’t like poetry the way I do, and I blame the education system for that. Poetry is a living, breathing animal and is meant to be observed and studied from afar, and then up close if it will let you. The education system assumes poetry is an already dead animal, to be cut up and cadavered and studied in detail, whether it wants you to or not. The education system makes poetry reek of formaldehyde and plastic gloves and face masks, not bare feet and warm breezes and clean air.
If I were to teach poetry, here is how I would teach it. If you read poetry, I think this is how you should read it.
1. Read it out loud.
Poems are meant to be musical and heard, not just read. Reading a poem silently takes away some of its impact, while speaking a poem magnifies its power tenfold. Or perhaps even more, depending on the time and day.
2. Just let it be.
Some poems make sense the first time you read them. Some poems you read and they make no impact, but then you read them a year later and suddenly, that poem knows your most private bits of life. Some poems have a certain meaning one day, and then morph into a completely different meaning another day. Just let it be. Don’t analyze the metaphors or stanzas. If you do that, it’s not speaking to you properly. If you don’t sigh and say, “Holy shit” after reading a poem, it wasn’t the right poem. It’s not worth analyzing.
3. Eat chocolate – dark chocolate preferably.
I read once that the Bible should be read while eating dark chocolate. I agree with this, and I think it goes for poetry, too. My theory is that since chocolate induces feelings of love, and since poetry is love, the two enhance and complement each other.
When you do have that sigh of recognition at the end of a poem, when you do feel like the author is your most intimate friend, when you do say, “Holy shit” at the end of a poem, you must share it. It would be a crime to not share it. It’s like when you know you love someone – I really think one of the worst things you can do in life is not share that love, even if it’s unrequited. It kills the love and it kills the poem and it kills some of its power to change you. So share it. On Facebook is okay, calling someone up and reading it is better, reading it to someone in person is best. Then they can see what it does to you, how it changes your face, how your mouth moves, and the poem becomes not just a mystical being, but a real animal.