I blame what little I know of poetry these days on Garrison Keillor. Sometimes he reads one I like. Sometimes he reads one that seems like a humorous anecdote, but I just don’t get what makes it into a poem. Mostly he reminds him that I like the sound of the spoken word, and he shows me that there is poetry out there that I like. So Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud, edited by Robert Pinsky seemed like a good collection to look for more.
And I did indeed find poems that are fun to read out loud. I discovered, though, that often such music distracts me from the meaning. I have a similar problem with most songs; I have trouble understanding lyrics and music at the same time. Prose can do the same thing to me. A story that sounds especially beautiful is usually one I have to listen to twice.
I also noticed an awful lot of lamentations for the fleeting nature of a man’s life, and the still more fleeting nature of a woman’s beauty. The latter gets tedious really fast. A common pattern seems to be intense descriptions and vivid metaphors capped off by likening the described with the beloved, or likening the described to a relationship, or likening the described to a pithy observation. I preferred the last variant.
In general, I’m not sure what I learned about poetry, except maybe the kinds of poem I like. Such as:
I prefer short lines to long ones.
I get impatient with ballads.
I like jokey and insulting poems.
I find Emerson and Tennyson tedious.
I can’t stand Ginsberg or Whitman.
And I like William Carlos Williams, Yeats, and Robert Frost.
Mostly, this book emboldened me.