Tag Archives: should poets explain their poetry

Should Poets Explain their Poetry?

Last Friday (5 February) I gave an online reading, using Microsoft Teams to work colleagues.

During my performance I read from my recently released collection Leaving and Other Poems. Having read my poem Blackbird, I explained the context in which it had been composed.

Having finished my brief explanation, a colleague commented that knowing something about the context of the poem, it’s meaning Etc was helpful. I responded that whilst I appreciated her thoughts and, I am, on occasions happy to provide context, I was wary of taking away from my readers own perspectives on my poetry by putting my interpretation on my work.

Part of the beauty of poetry is that the reader can interpret a poem in diverse (and often very different ways). I am often surprised at how my readers interpret my work and sometimes find their interpretations rather bizarre. However, in many other instances I comprehend why they interpret a particular poem as they do and this has sometimes caused me to see new meanings in my own work.

I am planning a reading from Leaving and Other Poems in a local library in the near future. Doubtless I will talk about what inspired me to write a given poem. However, if I am asked what a particular poem means I shall politely respond that I would be interested to hear the questioners own interpretation prior to (possibly) providing my own perspective.

As always I would be interested in your comments. How do my fellow poets feel about explaining their poetry? Also, if you are not a poet but enjoy reading poetry, do you find a poets explanations helpful or do they take away from your enjoyment of their work?

You can find Leaving and Other Poems in paperback and Kindle on Amazon here https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09R3HR9KG/ (for the UK), and here, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09R3HR9KG/
(for the US and elsewhere).

Should Poets Explain Their Poetry?

How far (if at all) should a poet explain his (or her) work? I have always been of the view that poets should leave it to the interpretation of readers to determine what their verses mean. To explain all risks treating readers like young children who must be spoon fed. Furthermore, detailed explanations by the poet remove the joy experienced by many lovers of poetry of reaching their own conclusions concerning a poem’s meaning.
Recently, 2 people have expressed the view (on 2 separate occasions in face-to-face conversations) that explanations as regards a poem’s meaning (or what caused me to write it) would be helpful. During the 2 occasions on which I have given poetry readings, I have included a brief explanation concerning the poem’s origins. However I remain of the view that to furnish chapter and verse in respect of a poem’s meaning detracts from the enjoyment of reaching one’s own (often unique) conclusion. One gentleman with whom I discussed the matter suggested that notes could be appended to poems concerning their origin and/or meaning with a caveat that those who wished to come to their own conclusion should skip them. While this is an interesting idea, I don’t want to turn into a didact, I am, after all a poet not a teacher.
As always I would be interested in my reader’s views.