Monday, November 29, 2010

Poetry? Okay

The most surprising thing I learned this year is that I like poetry. In high school I enjoyed literature and often read in my free time. I was a regular at the school library and while I cannot recall the number of books I borrowed a month I do remember that the librarian was impressed. While I read often, I always thought of poetry as a far different style of writing and one that could not hold its own when compared to prose. When I registered for Understanding Literature during the summer I expected that I would continue to read novels similar to those I had read in the past. Instead, I found that the majority of the syllabus was dedicated to poetry with only a handful of short stories and novellas. Despite this switch from my traditional area of interest I was not disappointed in the course. I learned how to read poetry in a manner that made it both more interesting and more complicated than I could have imagined in the past. Although shorter than traditional books, the poems we discussed in class were able to cram meaning into every syllable and match many novels in value. The most surprising thing I learned this semester is that poetry can be just as appealing as novels in terms of meaning and value.

The reason I believed that poetry was boring was that I did not know where to look for meaning. However, with time I found the key points of interest that are necessary to look for in order to unlock the messages within a particular work. While reading the body of the poem is important, much of the value in poetry is shown through its organization. The rhythm, rhyme, stanza format, length of lines, and tone of a poem denote its message with as much power as the explicit words. By consulting these additional factors the audience is able to gather what the author is attempting to express. While reading the body itself I learned not to disregard an odd word but rather focus on why that particular word stands out. Understanding this concept of valuing every word was something completely different from what I had known in the past. After being taught the means available for poets to convey meaning and after learning the value of each word I began to be just as interested in poetry as prose, something that is shocking to me considering my previous distaste for anything poetic.

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