In one novel I recently read the character rarely read poetry–never cottoned to it, but when he heard a reading, felt the power of the emotions, etc. On the other hand I went to one of those recitations–just last week. The reader (I won’t mention names) is an older man (anyone older than me is “older”) with a rather thin, certainly too weak a voice to carry in a large hall. So they provided him with a mike. It was like listening to a conversation under water. Or in an echo chamber.What he said might have been lovely. But with the difficulty in catching the sounds and reconstructing them into something comprehensible (I mean, as words, as phrases), there was hardly a chance to make some sense out of the poems themselves.
What I’m saying is that there are two, maybe more, components to the comprehension of poetry. What is best, at least for me, is to read it first, then perhaps listen. When one WRITES a poem, there is first anidea, and then it is the sound which carries one along. As a result, the lines, the grammar, even the appearance of the thing becomes convoluted. And so, on the other hand, when one READS a poem it is first necessary to de-convolute (to so to speak, decode, un-zip) the message contained therein. And then, listen to the sound. (Or read it to yourself aloud.) And that joins the feeling to the meaning. And the meaning to the feeling. It is like a room with mirrors on every side, like a multiplication of You’s.
Isn’t that the difference between prose and poetry? Or am I derogating prose? While some prose, in its beauty and rhythm, approaches the nature of poetry? And visa versa. Sometimes I’ll write something, and when I read it, there’s no rhythm, it’s not poetry but is prose. Sometimes it’s reparable; more often it’s dumped. On the other hand a lot of recent poetry is almost prose. And acceptable to many.
Well, read. Read! Decide for yourself.