How to Enjoy the Magic of Poetry - A Furious Reader Primer

It’s going to be a month of poetry exploration and appreciation, so to get us started, I wanted to share a primer that breaks down the steps to create a more rewarding poetry-reading experience. 

As the Purdue OWL eloquently puts it, "There are two factors battling for poets' attention when they sit down to write a poem: chaos and control." They offer an excellent breakdown of what to look for in terms of pattern and variation in poetry. Understanding the difference between the "chaos" and the "control" will help in trying to determine what the poet is trying to say.

As you continue reading the poem aloud, look for any words, phrases, or images that stand out to you. Nothing in a poem is written by accident. Every word, phrase, and line is carefully chosen by the poet. 

If you are reading an entire poetry collection, consider the title, the cover, and if there are any illustrations within the book. Do all of the poems have similar titles? Is there an ongoing theme? Looking at the entire poetry collection will help put the poem you're reading in perspective.

Finally, identify the speaker of the poem. The best advice I ever received in a poetry seminar is this: never confuse the speaker for the poet. Sometimes poets are the speaker, but not all speakers are the poet. Treat each poem as a new person that you just met. 

Poetry is a very emotional genre. Similar to memoir, we find ourselves looking into someone's very intimate thoughts and longings. This, too, is part of the poem's magic. Check in with your own emotions as you're reading - what stands out to you? What is the poem saying to you, its beloved audience?

If you're feeling overwhelmed, put the poem aside. It will wait for you, I promise. All good stories do - that's what makes them special. They are very patient. 

Finally, keep going! You're doing great! Exploring a new genre or reading a challenging text is a marathon, not a sprint. The experience in discovering something new will be worth it. You can do hard things - including reading a poem. 

We are so excited to have you on this journey, Furious Reader. As always, read often, read well, and read furiously

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