I don’t get poetry.
Sometimes I can’t even spot a rhyming scheme.
But it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy what I read. The words can make me laugh, feel uncomfortable, question the nature of my existence, etc.
I usually get something out of poetry that is different from what the writer intended. But if a reader is moved, isn’t that worth something?
I cried when I saw A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte at the Art Institute of Chicago. I had heart palpitations and tears poured over my pink, chubby cheeks as I stared at the enormous canvas.
It wasn’t the little girl’s face, or the running dog, or the plump Victorian profiles. Something else moved me to tears—something inexplicable.
There are many names for this phenomenon, but I like “Stendhal Syndrome” best (perhaps due to my affinity for pen names).
In the presence of great works of art or splendid beauty, some people react with a visceral response—a rare few even experiencing hallucinations.
I was not contemplating aristocratic Victorian society or dissecting the juxtaposition of movement and stillness in the famous work of art. Instead, my heart swelled at the explosion of tiny pin pricks of colour carefully splattered over the canvas.
I later researched the meaning of the piece. I was overwhelmed by the complexity of the piece but the intellectual dissection couldn’t compare to the raw emotion of my experience.
The same goes for my experience with poetry.
I wrote two tests on selected writings from a literary magazine. I did great on the first test. And then came the poetry test.
I must have read each poem three times.
I failed the test, including the question asking which one used a rhyming scheme.
(To be fair, only a portion of the piece was written in rhyme. To be honest, even after I was told the answer I had to sing the piece to notice the rhymes.)
I’m still going to read poetry. I’m not going to “get it” but it will excite me like an explosion of tiny pin pricks of colour splattered over a canvas.