blog poetry | 4min Read
Published on July 27, 2022
Jamnabai Narsee School
A lot of people are intimidated by poems (especially the ones that are written in archaic English). Honestly, I do not blame them – everyone has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. It is only human to think of certain challenges as daunting; It is only human to be averse to the idea of delving into the depths of what one is most scared of. However, the poets who write poetry are humans too – even they are flawed beings who experience a wide range of emotions. They too desire to frolic around with their pets and gaze at a sky full of stars. It is this humanness that’s reflected in their poetry, and that is what we must strive to look for and resonate with.
I have always sworn by the CCD method in order to make the best of poetry – no, I don’t mean the cafe coffee day method for those wondering. The CCD method stands for Context, Contemplation and Discussion. We will explore each of these in the following paras!
Remember those ‘introducing the poet’ pages that used to be there in our English textbooks before every poem? They were there for a reason. Being cognizant of the socio-economic/political situation of the world and the personal life of the authors could help us understand poetry better – thereby helping us make the best of it. It is akin to asking your friend for some more context when they ask you for advice on a particular topic. The fact of the matter is that poetry writing is a cathartic process, and writers often use it as a means to express their desires, thoughts, grievances etc. Emotions add a sense of humanness to almost anything under the sun and poetry is no different. To understand these nuances better, the context of the poem must be understood.
For eg- Robert Frost had a rather tragic life. Two years before he wrote the poem ‘stopping by the woods on a snowy evening’, he admitted his younger sister into a mental asylum. He himself suffered from depression as did his wife. He had to look after his sibling, children and wife whilst grappling with a multitude of problems. A lot of critics believe that the last line of the aforementioned poem hints at the fact that he has a plethora of responsibilities to shoulder – it seems like he is desperate to take a break and admire nature, but he cannot do so due to his professional and personal life. Even poets experience conflicting emotions just like us!
There is always more to poetry than what meets the eye. In order to understand the nitty gritty of poetry, it is important to avoid generic thoughts. Contemplating the ideas that the poet is trying to convey is perhaps the best way to make the best of poetry. Reading the poem and mulling over your own thoughts on it is important. Thereafter, one can look up the words and concepts that are incomprehensible or intriguing. At this juncture, it is also important to understand that poems are a reflection of the poet’s thoughts, and like most humans, poets too have a variety of thoughts (often on the same subject). Ruminating on the poem that you want to understand might take a while – poetry takes time; poetry needs patience.
For eg – The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy deals with quite a few themes, and if one were to form an opinion on it just by giving it a cursory glance, they would be compelled to believe that it is just another poetry about how hopeless our world is. However, it is certainly more than just that. The symbolism, the religious allusions and the context make it so very profound. For instance, the use of the word evensong in the poem makes it seem like there is some kind of divine intervention at play – the thrush isn’t just a bird who is merry. In fact, he has every reason not to be so since he is frail and gaunt. However, he is joyous because he is aware of some divine intervention that the poet isn’t aware of.
I have often seen my friends shy away from discussing poetry. A lot of people do it either because they are afraid of not contributing enough to the discussion or because they think it isn’t worth the effort. However, I have garnered so many insights each time I have discussed my favorite poems with those who adore them as much as I do. Poetry is subjective, and everyone interprets it differently based on their experiences and background. The more perspective your garner, the better you will understand the poem.
For eg- It is like two people cutting a fruit in different ways. The fruit (or the essence of the poem) is the same, but the look (or the outlook in case of them poem) is different. That’s precisely why discussions are so pivotal to the understanding of poetry.
At the end of the day, it is upto you and only you to figure out a process that works well for you. Once you do that, making the best of poetry would surely be a cakewalk.