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Friday, July 29, 2011

Reading Poetry



My graduate thesis director used to say that if you are reading poetry it is as though you are writing poetry. It "counts."

And what he meant by that, I believe, is that writers learn by reading. And for me, reading poetry serves as a door into the landscape of my imagination. It is a catalyst.

I will admit, though, that I have little patience with badly written poetry. I won't say it's like being gnawed at in the dark by undefined, nameless creatures....I won't say that. But you get the general idea.

Then, too, when I read great poetry I can hardly take air into my body. My chest tightens and aches. My eyes hurt.  It's a little like swallowing liquid light.

These two extremes present obvious challenges.

However, over the years, I have learned to read poetry a bit at a time. It helps with these reactions. I try to read as slowly as I can.  Sometimes I read one poem in a collection a dozen times before I can get to the next page. It's slow--but absolutely wonderful--going.

This summer I am reading some of the following poets: Henri Cole, Jean Follain, Elizabeth Alexander as well as a few books on the craft of poetry--James Lonenbach and Charles Wright.







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