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As I listened to this podcast there were two things that Elizabeth Alexander said that really caught my attention and changed how I view poetry. The first thing was Alexander argued that poetry is not a luxury, the second is how she argues poetry is a poor persons art form. I have always viewed poetry as classy form of writing, something that only scholars and educated people could write, but that was very close-minded of me. Poetry does not have to be a super abstract piece of writing with only words that educated people can understand; it can be a simple piece of writing with only a few lines and elementary words.
This realization opened my mind to a whole new world of what poetry can mean. Poetry does not just have to be something shared between colleagues in a classroom, or something read at an opening to an inauguration, it can be something that is enjoyed between children and their parents or grandparents and even as a bonding source between friends. I believe that I always read poetry much too fast, I never quite understood the meaning of slowing down to get the full effect, and that’s why I never realized that poetry means so much more than a classy piece of writing.
As I finish up my freshman year of college, I am starting to reflect on everything I learned from all my classes, and as I look back on my poetry class I realize the most important thing I learned is straight from my professor, Dr. Maupin, that it is perfectly acceptable to read poetry slowly and not quite understand it on the first read through. I remember during the middle of the semester when Dr. Maupin walked in and I was thinking about the homework we had done the previous night, I had not really understood the poem we read. Dr. Maupin started off class that day by discussing how it is ok to be confused by poetry and sometimes by being confused you get the full affect. I was stunned, never had I thought being confused was ok, and I just remember completing every homework assignment after that with ease.
A poem that comes to mind when I think about how you need to slow down to understand it is “To the Present Tense” by W.S. Merwin. Merwin uses a very repetitive structure to represent the passing of time and as the poem goes on the repetitiveness eventually ends to signify the inevitable passing of time. This poem, as well crafted as it is, is extremely hard to figure out a single meaning by quickly reading through it, you must take the time to examine the structure, syntax, and diction.
So I truly do agree that poetry is a poor persons form of art, and I am glad it is, otherwise it wouldn’t be quite so special. The power of poetry is not within the big fancy words it is deep within the meaning, which is only accessible by slowing down and understanding the meaning through the structure, syntax, and diction. This is something I never would have learned without Dr. Maupin or my poetry class.