How Should Poets Explain Their Poetry?

How should poets explain their poetry?

The above question came into sharp focus for me yesterday evening. I was out in a pub with my friend Brian when we fell into conversation with a couple. During our chat, the subject of poetry came up and I passed a copy of my book “Leaving and Other Poems” to the gentleman and his girlfriend.

Having leafed through Leaving, the gentleman asked me the meaning of my poem “Circular”:

“A circular seat
Encompassing a tree.
Age will defeat
Thee and me”.

In retrospect, I ought to have asked the gentleman for his interpretation of the poem prior to giving my own take on it. However, I did not. Rather, I admitted to not having a complete answer to his question. I went on to say that poems sometimes pop into a poet’s head and are written down without the author being fully aware of the meaning of his own work.

The above brief poem came to me whilst sitting with family on a circular bench in the environs of Woolton Wood (woodland in the village of Woolton in Liverpool). The circular seat reminded me of life, death and rebirth, and it’s circularity also brought to mind eternity.

I explained (somewhat haltingly) my interpretation to my companions, and the gentleman commented that his interpretation accorded with mine.

Despite my explanation of my own poem, I remain of the view that others may interpret it differently. What the poet writes is not (as I say above) always cut and dried in his own mind. The words are there in black and white. He may, at the time of composition, be sure that he knows exactly what he means. But, even after polishing and final publication, his poem remains a living force, open to various interpretations. The poet has lost control over his offspring (if indeed he ever had control in the first place).

As always, I would be interested in the views of you my readers.

(You can find “circular” in “Leaving and Other Poems”, which is available in Kindle and paperback here https://www.amazon.com/Leaving-other-poems-Kevin-Morris/dp/B09R3HR9KG/).

9 thoughts on “How Should Poets Explain Their Poetry?

    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Liz, which made me smile. I agree that poetry (a particular poem) needs to be experienced. Sometimes merely experiencing it is sufficient for the reader or listener. However, having experienced a poem many then go on to search for meaning within it. I do so myself when reading the poems of other poets. Again, those studying poetry need to explain the art form, or at least attempt to do so. Having said all that, one can explain a poem to death and suck the juice of joy out of it. This is, perhaps why some people go so far as to say they “hate” poetry.

      Reply
      1. Liz Gauffreau

        You’re welcome, Kevin. For me, the experience of the poem has to come first. Examining the interaction between myself and the poem then provides insight into multiple levels of meaning.

    2. K Morris Poet Post author

      I agree with you, Liz. One has to experience the poem before one can interpret it. Its a source of fascination to me how individuals can experience (and interpret) the same poem in very different ways. But that is one of the joys of poetry. Kevin

      Reply

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