Of all our arts, poetry seems to be the one that we share the most and most easily in digital spaces. Does the poem use unusual words or use words in an unusual way. Was the last time you read a poem on social media or in your inbox? There's still time to apply to bring the NEA Big Read to your community. We have to give up our material attitude, which makes us want to possess the poem. Embracing ambiguity is a much harder task for some than for others. What kind of figurative language, if any, does the poem use? When you read a book of poetry, where do you start? The second is assuming that the poem is a kind of code, that each detail corresponds to one, and only one, thing, and unless they can crack this code, they’ve missed the point. The issue is our reaction, how we shape our thoughts through words. Poems speak to us in many ways. After doing that, then I will go back and read the book cover to cover. We have to cultivate a new mindset, a new practice of enjoying the inconclusive. Williams admits in these lines that poetry is often difficult. Of course, actors and musicians will say that there is mystery in what they do with a script or a score, and it would be pointless to disagree. The text was not out of place. I’ve never been to a wedding or inauguration where a theater performance was prepared in celebration; I’ve rarely been compelled to post a novel on Facebook. Then, finally, reread it again and focus on each line—go line by line. Though their forms may not always be direct or narrative, keep in mind that a real person formed the moment of the poem, and it’s wise to seek an understanding of that moment. In a class I’m teaching this semester, we’ve read an interview where Joy Harjo suggests that language is culture; to think creatively with language is to think creatively about how we make meaning out of experiences. Poetry is language, and we use language all the time, every day. Some actors hate being without a script; the same is true of some musicians. That’s part of the reason why we often talk about events narratively and in ways that are connected to our reactions. “Don't worry about what a poem means,” says poet Joy Harjo. In the absence of such a list, here are a few general questions that you might ask when approaching a poem for the first time: You can fall back on these questions as needed, but experience suggests that since each poem is unique, such questions will not go the necessary distance. The idea of finding handholds and footholds and ascending one bit at a time is apt. Afterward, after reading—use the internet! Do you notice something because it is strange? Can you remember the last time you heard or read a poem? Stored Magic The lyric poem seeks to mesmerize time. NEA: As an example, one of the new poetry titles in the NEA Big Read library is Kevin Young’s Book of Hours. If the poem is a question, what is the answer? Now, having read many poems, I find I prefer to read more quickly and to take in the horizon. Try a variety of methods. With poets who use techniques drawn from music—particularly jazz, such as Michael S. Harper or Yusef Komunyakaa—or poets like Walt Whitman who employ unusually long lines, there may be another guiding principle: breath. MATEJKA: Poetry is an experience as much as it is a concrete thing to be discussed and like all experiences, there isn’t always a right or wrong answer to it. Visual choices presented by the poet may be confusing. So it is with great poetry. but you got to try hard—. It crosses frontiers and outwits the temporal. Some magic, some satisfaction, some "Ahhh!" Others say that no text exists in a vacuum. A selected or collected is an invitation to think of the body of work as a whole; to think about the resonance and relevance of the work in a larger context. Sometimes the arrangements of words on a page are intended to represent different voices in a dialogue, or even a more complex discourse on a subject. In reading a poetry collection such as this, I would recommend reading a small section, then putting the book down to really digest the poems and then I would come back later to read more. It’s fun to "Creeleyize" any poem, just to hear what the lineation is doing. Playing or listening to a song for the hundredth time—if it is a great song—will yield new interpretation and discovery. If you are very new to reading poetry, maybe just read a few poems the whole way through and then come back to them later and go stanza by stanza, then come back later to go line by line. Torment, powerlessness—these are the desired ends? Consider this situation, a true story, of a poet who found a "text" at the San Mateo coast in northern California. BRUMBACH: When I read a book of poetry, I usually start by jumping around, to be honest. We often use poetry to signify cultural importance, and help us make sense of important events. They make the inquiry their own. But such a task is to some degree impossible, and most people want clarity. Looking at the poem’s shape, you can see whether the lines are continuous or broken into groups (called stanzas), or how long the lines are, and so how dense, on a physical level, the poem is. Where could I possibly go to read aloud?