Why Read - or Listen to - Poetry?
When the designer of my website posed this question, I had a liquorice all sorts response. Virtual all sorts only; we work remotely from each other. It didn't occur to me to send her a suitable parcel.
Why not read poetry?
What kind of poetry? Which poem?
Have I ever even wondered why I, or anyone else, wants to read poetry?
Why read the news online, or memes or biography or romances or...?
Why do you ask?
It depends on the poem - the day - the reader or listener.
In some minds, poetry has a name for being obscure, over-intellectual or arty farty. I suppose that's why people say they don't read poems. These same people might know Mulga Bill's Bicycle or Hist! by heart.
I have no idea why we put all of 'poetry' into one word, and classify the world into people who either read 'it' or don't. Do we expect a film buff to watch films of every genre with equal enthusiasm? Although not a regular movie goer, I enjoy a film occasionally. Why not occasional poetry reading?
I suppose we read poems for insight or fun or curiosity, or for an exciting story well told. Or because the poem was written by a friend, and we want to hear our friend's voice. Perhaps it's to praise or criticise what others have produced or published. But the tedious cold mind of a critic does not readily draw joy from verse.
I wonder why some people like reading my poems. I don't have an
answer to that. Sometimes it is because what I wrote was in their
hearts too, and although they had looked, they hadn't found it in other places.
I read others' poetry to revel in choice words and fine craftmanship. Each word is just the right length and sound. Each balances on the tongue tip, selected for and wholly submitted to the whole, yet perfect in itself. I marvel.
Not being physically well balanced or supple in my body, I find beauty in the dance of words.
The book of Psalms, the Songbook of ancient Israel, is my most-visited book of the Bible. Of course; the poems speak in a way that is framed for my soul. I once read with delight a Scottish Metrical Psalter: the psalms set to quaint rhyme and metre for singing. I would love to own a copy.
As a poet, I read poems to find forms and rhyming schemes I'd like to try. Take the sestina, a tightly controlled and difficult structure. Rudyard Kipling's Sestina of the Tramp-Royal is a great example: so convincingly told that we barely notice the form.
I read my own poetry to recall things I once knew. To see if I would
change any lines now. To check again for typo's. To assure myself that I
can sometimes write almost as I would like to; and that I can probably
write well enough for the project at hand.