Beginner’s guide to poetry

Published On: September 27, 2019 10:28 AM NPT By: The Week Bureau

We all know poetry is a somewhat elite form of literature. Have you ever tried reading a poem or two and wondered why it didn’t somehow make as much sense as you expected it to? If you are intimidated by the complexity of poems and have steered away from them all this while, then it’s time to change that. 

To quote Robert Frost, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” Not only does poetry help us understand and appreciate the world around us, it sheds light on the matters of the world in a way that doesn’t burden your senses and emotions. Here are some tips for anyone willing to embrace this genre of self-expression as their newfound interest.

Ask for recommendations
This one is pretty straightforward. Have a friend who has always got their nose in a book? (If you’re that friend, then that’s too bad, at least in this case.) Go ahead and feel free to ask them what poem or poet you should start with. It doesn’t just have to be friends and family, you can drop by the desk of your colleague or local librarian and ask for recommendations. Even checking out the staff recommendations at your favorite bookstore might yield some great results. 

If you want to keep your new endeavor a little private (so you can wow people later), Good Reads is also a great place to snoop around through other people’s bookshelves, at least digitally. The main thing is that you shouldn’t be afraid to strip down and say you know nothing about the art of poetry and thus are willing to ask those who have delved into the world of Byron and Poe for some guidance.

Try a novel-in-verse
If you have been a novel person for the longest time, it might get a little tough to get used to the formats of sonnets and haikus. Well, there is one solution for this – novel-in-verse. A verse novel is a type of narrative poetry in which a novel-length narrative is told through the medium of poetry rather than prose. This way you are discovering a whole new genre as well as finding a great way to fall in love with poetry itself. There’s just something about seeing a poem grow into a fully formed plot that makes the entire genre feel easier to understand. We recommend you try verse novels like The Crossover, Long Way Down, Inside Out and Back Again and The Poet X. You don’t have to limit yourself to English, grab the good old Muna-Madan for your daily dose of classic Nepali verse-novel.

Go for the print version
Suppose you downloaded Tagore’s Gitanjali on your phone to read. However, every time you take your phone out to read it, a notification on Instagram distracts you. Don’t worry for this happens to all of us, which is why we recommend you buy an actual book of poetry. The charm of reading through an entire poetry collection with a mug of coffee and some cookies – that too over a lazy afternoon – is truly something else. Once you’ve got a feel for the genre, and are excited for more, the actual weight of a book in your hands and the ability to make small notes and scribbles throughout the pages as well as underline your favorite parts will make all the difference.

Try listening to poetry instead
Thanks to how poems are written and how they flow, they are truly magnificent when spoken out loud. After all, aren’t songs poems merged with music? If reading poems isn’t cutting it for you, try listening to them. There are no shortages of audiobooks and podcasts available on various apps as well as the internet. You can download them and listen to them while you commute, while doing the dishes or the laundry – this way you are adding a poetic flair to the most mundane of chores. We recommend you start with The Lake Isle of Innisfree by Keats, Fire, and Ice by Frost, The World Is Too Much with Us by Wordsworth and Hope is the Thing With Feathers by Dickinson.

Check out a poetry reading
Like music, poetry is best experienced in its raw and real form. Traditional readings are kind of like a jazz performance with poets improvising on the text. Performance poetry and poetry slams include even more heightened elements of drama, comedy, and sometimes, even music. Sometimes just observing an author interact with their writing will give you perspective on what kinds of poems you are drawn towards. And, if nothing else, since there are sure to be plenty of poetry fans at such events, you could ask the person sitting next to you for some reading recommendations. 

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