Yesterday I came upon the blog Stone and Plank created by Curt Stump via the Earth Friendly Gardening blog by Caroline Brown. At Stone and Plank I explored the discussion of “Academic Poetry.” This got my wheels turning about the topic of poetry and poetic analysis – something I hope to play with regularly at Brainripples.
The words “poetic analysis” can really make me cringe. I love poetry – I love to write it, to read it, to hear it, to taste it, and to kick it around in my brain – but I rarely enjoy “poetic analysis” proper.
Early introductions to “poetic analysis” in academia left me put-off. Certainly there is a lot to be gained from learning to see the religious symbolism in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Of course there is something to be said for the philosophical undertakings of Walt Whitman in his epic Song of Myself.
What turns me off to “poetic analysis” proper isn’t the attempt to extract deliberate symbolism and significant allusion potentially incorporated by the artist – what turns me off is the frequency with which I encounter academics who believe in the One True Interpretation.
I believe (note the subjective here) that the importance of artistic analysis does not lie in the consensus, but rather in the discord. Undoubtedly any artist will have a particular meaning, message, or theme that they infuse into their work, but that does not negate the importance of how a work will touch each individual viewer differently.
When we look at poetry here at Brainripples, you might hear me extracting bits of meaning or thought that I find in the work – but that most certainly does not mean that you have to agree! There is no One True Interpretation. There is only the infinite ocean of possible interpretations in which we swim, float, or drown as we explore each piece of art we encounter.
With that, how about a little poetry?
What does this piece say to you? How does it make you feel? Where does your mind wander as you explore the words? How does it read after you’ve reread it a few times?
[I have removed this poem per my discussion about copyrights and fair use which you can read about on Tuesday, July 25, 2006. If you want to read this poem, I encourage you to visit your local library and grab a copy of the book cited below!]
Watson, Burt, trans. Cold Mountain – 100 Poems by the T’ang Poet Han-Shan. Grove Press, Inc. New York, 1962. p. 68.