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.

Read more..

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.

Read more..

Diving into Poetry

by Matthew Koslowski on June 23, 2010
in Essays

“A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out. It is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery.”
– John Keats in the film Bright Star

Bright Star has become one of my favorite movies since I saw it twice in theatres. And my favorite scene from the film is the poetry lesson that John Keats gives Fanny Brawne. Fanny states she does not know how to work out a poem, as so many of us would say if someone asked us how to work out a poem. Keats responds with the above.

The last few nights I have watched again and again and again this particular scene. Keats gives an entire year’s worth of poetic instruction in that single scene.

* * *

Lately in discussing poetry with my friends, they say, “I am no expert in poetry,” or “I do not understand poetry,” even before we have discussed a poem. If I were to ask a friend what they thought of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club or Hubert Selby Jr.’s Requiem for a Dream, would they say, “Oh, I am no expert in novels”?

No, they would not. The very idea is ridiculous.

Read more..

On My Recent Silence

by Matthew Koslowski on June 17, 2010
in Announcements

Dear readers and friends,

June has provided a number of surprises for me. Please bear with me a little bit longer while I navigate some of these changes.

I have been having some excellent conversations about poetry and art — only in the real world, not online. I have been working on my own writing — just not my blog — and nothing that I am quite ready to share. I have begun to swing dance, in addition to the other dancing I already do, so I have even less time than I did before.

So, while I adjust to the new schedule, please be patient with me. I will have some good posts in the next week and I will try to make it up to you for the two Wednesdays I have missed.

Sincerely,

 

Matthew Koslowski

Who, if I sung out, would hear?

Echo Bridge, Waban, Massachusetts

Echo Bridge, Waban, Massachusetts

The rock looked inviting.

Rocks, as I am sure you know, do not often look inviting. But this one did. Its cold, rough, mossy surface jutted out over the Charles River. It was bathed in sunlight.

I had not been exploring Hemlock Gorge very long, but I wanted to sit. And I wanted to read in the sunlight. What did it matter that I was wearing a business suit and a light trench coat, and had a laptop bag with two books slung across my shoulders? The river spirits wouldn’t care how I was dressed.

The soles of my shoes slipped and I was afraid of falling in. But, settling myself on the rock, I looked out at the river. I felt like child again, in a world of unlimited possibilities.

Read more..

Next Page »