Tag Archives: reading a poem

Should Poets Write to be Understood?

Recently, an acquaintance related how her father had given her, and other members of his family a book of poetry he had written. The result? None of the recipients of his gift understood his work.

My acquaintance argues that poets ought to compose poetry their readers are able to comprehend, rather than using obscure metaphors and references to mythology which comparatively few people can understand.

Whilst I agree that poets should not be deliberately obscure, I am of the view that the first duty of a poet is to be true to themselves. It is, undoubtedly odd for poets to deliberately compose obscure poetry (and I am sceptical that many do so). However the fact that a poem or series of poems is difficult to interpret does not imply that the poet deliberately made them so.

One can not converse with the dead. But where one to have this privilege, and where one to be able to ask T. S. Eliot about The Wasteland (which many struggle to interpret), he would, I suspect say that his readers should make an effort to understand his poetry, and that he had to write the poem as he did.

I have not met the father of my acquaintance. But I am in no doubt that he put his heart and soul into his work, and that I for one would feel impertinent where I to say “sir, I don’t understand your work, you should have made it mor comprehensible”.

Seemingly simple poems can be open to interpretation. In my Selected Poems is one entitled Raining. I awoke one morning and, hearing the rain was reminded of mortality. I will die but the rain will continue as it always has.

A reader interpreted the reference to rain as implying sadness and, in particular tears. In fact I love the rain and my poem flowed from a feeling of contentment on my part. We all die but there is continuity and beauty in the eternal rain, and the knowledge of this fills me with joy rather than sorrow.

Ultimately poets must remain true to themselves and not sacrifice their art merely to bough down to the lowest common denominator. I hope that people understand what I write, but I will not change the manner in which I compose my poetry to enhance the understanding of my readers.

As always, I would welcome comments.

Unlocking Prufrock

Shall I unlock
Eliot’s Prufrock
Where poetic mist
Shrouds meaning?

A dinner party.
Perhaps something arty
Yet some insist
On another meaning …

Reading a Poem

It is a fact
That one may beautify
A lie,
Or other ugly act
In rhyme.

The good-time
Girl, becomes his lover true.
But, those who
Can read between a line,
May, correctly, construe his rhyme.

Who Is The “I” In A Poem?

Who is the “I” refered to in a poem? Frequently (but by no means always) the “I” in question is the poet him/herself. We should not, however make the mistake of assuming that the “I” in a given poem does, necessarily refer to the person who has penned the poem. This issue receives attention here, https://wewritepoetryforum.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/poetic-tidbit-1-personas/.


Shall I compose
A poem about fingers and toes
Or write one more complex
So as to vex
My readers?

Yet who knows
For a poem about fingers and toes
May not be
What you see,
For dig down
And you may drown
In profundity,
Or not as the case may be!

I play with words
Which soar like birds
Or, like flat pancakes
Stick to ceilings
Evoking feelings of amusement
Or bemusement
But at the end of the day
One can clear the pancake away …

Some lakes
Are deep, while beneath the surface of others
We discover nought but a shallow puddle.