Kenneth Koch in Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry (1998) tries to say "some clear and interesting things" --- a challenge when discussing that slippery subject. He builds upon a metaphor of poetry as a separate language, with distinctive rules that evolve over time. Poets make music: they pay attention to the sounds as well as the literal meanings of the words they use. Poets also tend to do a lot of comparisons. Poets personify or speak to inanimate objects. And poets tell out-and-out lies as part of their job. Koch sees these elements as coming together to create the power of poetry "... to be able to say things --- important, enhancing, and empowering things --- that can't be said without it." As a person reads and thinks about poems s/he builds a "poetry base", a meta-vocabulary that helps with the reading and understanding and writing of more and better poetry.
In an earlier book (Sleeping On the Wing, (1981)) Kenneth Koch and Kate Farrell wrote:
Reading poetry is not a completely passive pleasure, as is sitting in the sun or watching television. It is more like the pleasure you get from playing tennis or listening to music. There is a difference between what you feel the first time you play tennis and the fiftieth time. Or between the first time you go to a concert and later on, when you know more about the music and are used to concerts. Poetry is like that. The more you know about it and the more you read it, the more at ease you'll feel with it, the better you'll get at reading it, and the more you'll like it. When you read a poem, the poet's experience becomes, in a way, your own, so you see things and think things you wouldn't see and think otherwise. It's something like traveling --- seeing new places, hearing things talked about in new ways, getting ideas of other possibilities. It can change you a little and add to what you know and are.
Thursday, March 15, 2001 at 05:43:49 (EST) = Datetag20010315