Understanding Poetry

Poetry, Byron: Dance of Language textbook

Understanding poetry is a process that evolves over time as the reader comprehends how the writer connects the tools of imagery and figurative language to the poet’s experience and philosophy of life to produce the art form known as poetry.

What does the word poetry mean? The importance of the connotation of poetry exceeds that of the dictionary definition of poetry. What this statement implies is that readers looking at the same poem will see the sound and meaning of it through the eyes of their own unique experiences, resulting in infinite interpretations. I like the way Shakespeare’s Hamlet says it: “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Am I suggesting that a poem means whatever the reader says it means? Yes and no.

If a student is studying a poem in class, looking at it from philosophical, structural, historical, psychological, and figurative approaches, then it would be beneficial to consider the various levels of meaning of the poem, taking advantage of these rich and varied perspectives.

If someone picks up a book of poetry with no expectations other than enjoyment or comfort, what does it matter, as long as the reader is satisfied with his or her own interpretation?

Understanding Poetry Having said that, as an English teacher, I believe both approaches to reading poetry work satisfactorily for each specific purpose, and as an English teacher who prefers that students add to their knowledge successfully, with the attitude of desiring more of this kind of learning, I know both approaches are essential.