Apart from a few poems I’ve written, and poems written by people I’ve known, I’ve never felt an intimate connection with poetry. Where most stories pull me in to one degree or another, I tend to connect with poetry on an intellectual level. And I’m not talking about the whole question of poetic analysis, which I have no interest in. I’m talking about how poetry affects me emotionally — or rather doesn’t affect me.
I respect good art of all types, including poetry, but stories somehow transcend. A painting, a sculpture, a poem — all of these things can be wonderful, but for me a narrative has an extra dimension. Were I compelled to define that dimension I would point to suspension of disbelief. (More on suspension of disbelief here and here.)
I can appreciate and understand poetry as lyric, as image, as expression. I can understand the point of a poem, intuit the author’s perspective, and even chase allusions and literary references if the mood suits me, which it almost never does. (I seem to have sated the desire to play find-the-hidden object as a child, while reading Highlights in my dentist’s waiting room.)
What I’ve wanted from poetry — and again, I admit this is my bias — is to be involved emotionally. Not to the exclusion of reason or art, not simply as an excuse for drama, but as a foundation. I’ve wanted to feel myself merge with a poem, but over time I came to believe I never would. And then, one day, I came across a short, fourteen-line poem by Robert Frost, called Once By The Pacific. The full poem still fails to sustain a connection with me: I understand the point of it, but by the end I’m reading it, not living it. Four of the first six lines, however, not only changed my mind about what poetry can be, they brought into focus a craft issue that I had never heard anyone talk about before. [ Read more ]