Introduction to Poetry

by Matthew Koslowski on July 7, 2010
in Essays

I often wonder why people think reading a poem is different than reading other works of fiction. When you pick up Tinkers by Paul Harding or Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk or A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, you just start reading. You do not aim to discover the meaning of the work until you have worked through the story.

But with a poem people start trying to figure the meaning from the minute they read the title. If you are trying to determine the meaning of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” from the moment you begin reading it, you will miss the horror of picturing a raven flying into your house and speaking to you. If you are trying to discover the meaning of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” you will miss the woods, lovely, dark, and deep.

My friend lent me Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins.

I sat in a Dunkin’ Donuts reading through it and I nearly spat out my coffee in surprise. (I am sure she’s glad that I didn’t: she lent me an autographed copy.) One of his poems echoes what I wrote in Diving into Poetry two weeks ago.

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W.S. Merwin Named the Next U.S. Poet Laureate

W.S. Merwin, one of my favorite poets living or dead, has been named the 17th United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress*. His term will begin in the fall of 2010 and run through the fall of 2011.

He will open the Library of Congress’s annual literary series with a reading of his work on October 25, 2010.

For some of my favorite poets, like W.S. Merwin or Rainer Maria Rilke, I do not know how they first entered my life. They have become so integral to me that I feel as though they have always been with me. After reading his work, “Separation,” — which I hope he reads at the conclusion of his duties as the Poet Laureate — I cannot think of loss the same way.

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