How to Read a Poem

(Inter)national Poetry Month

As I have a whole months worth of posts planned all about poetry, I thought I would offer everyone an instructional post about how to read a poem. If you follow the below instructions, you’ll be reading and absorbing poetry in no time!

1. Find a poem.

Whether you find this poem online, in a book, or written in the stars, it does not matter. (It should be noted that obviously not the last one, if you look for literal poetry in the stars you will have a very hard time finding anything good, as the stars rarely produce anything worth reading 😛 ) All that matters is that you find a poem that you want to read.

2. Take a deep breath.

A long deep breath is essential, you’re about to embark upon a journey!

3. Clear your mind.

Like fine dining, you need to cleanse your pallet before reading a poem. The worst thing you can do to a poem is start reading with preconceptions or already formed opinions. Empty your head and give yourself a blank canvas on which to paint the poem.

4. Read.

Read. Read I say!

5. Take in the poem.

Once you have finished reading, stop. Take in the poem. Let yourself absorb the meaning.

You should also probably exhale – for everyone’s sake, I hope the poem wasn’t too long.

Pro-tip: if you’re reading a collection of a poets work, stop regularly. Take time to digest individual poems. Try not to move from one poem to another, as quick as you can.

Stop.

Linger.

Wrap your mind around the poems.

6. Ask questions.

What did it mean? How did it make you feel? Did you like it? There are no wrong answers. Poetry is different for everyone, there are no rights or wrongs with poems.

Bias pro-tip: If you’re planning on reading a poets book, rather than an anthology, research the poet. Look the poet up, check out their social media, read as many of their online poems as you can. If you like what you’ve read, by all means track down a copy of their book. If you didn’t, don’t force yourself.

Poetry, like anything, is extremely subjective. A poem that you love, other people may hate. Personally I find it really sad, when I see all the negative and glib reviews about poetry books. Especially when the reviewers acknowledge that they didn’t enjoy their previous encounters with the poet, but chose to read and review anyway.

It is important to know that, chances are, if you don’t enjoy the poems that are available for free by an poet, you probably won’t enjoy the collection.

7. Keep…

A. Reading.

Whether this means you move onto the next poem in a poets book, or if you go off and find more poetry to read. Always be reading! And if it’s poetry, even better ❤

B. Trying.

If you hated the poem that you read, I encourage you to never give up. Keep trying different poems, different styles, and different poets. You never know when you could find the poet who speaks to your soul!


I hope you enjoyed my procedural post on how to read poetry, and if anything, it has prompted you to pick up and read a poem 🙂

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