Who decided you had to understand a poem to enjoy it? A high school teacher? That college English professor? How many of us have excused the fact that we don’t read contemporary poetry by saying we don’t understand it, as if getting it were key?
But guess what — you don’t have to get it to get a laugh, feel the desperation and delight, or identify with other bits and pieces of a poem. In fact, you can’t understand poetry, not in any perfect way, just as you can’t completely understand a painting, an art film, or a piece of instrumental music. The whole idea of a single, agreed-on understanding of a poem does more harm than good by scaring people away. Poetry’s not a puzzle. It’s an experience.
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