(And maybe your life will change just a little bit?)
This is for all the people who say they don’t like poetry (and therefore don’t read it) because they don’t get it. And everyone else too. I hear it all the time. I think you are trying to swim by moving only your fingers and toes and wondering why you’re drowning. I think most people are doing it wrong.
This is a kind of advertisement for an art form that many say are dying, for an art form that I don’t want to die. Poetry: A Direct Line to the G-Spot of the Mind. Poetry: What Mental Orgasms Are Made Of. All it takes is a modicum of effort to get there. Even traditional orgasms require putting in at least a little bit of work. This is where I explain how to read poetry so that maybe the accepted view that poetry is hard and high-brow will start to fade. Three easy steps, five minutes.
Think of the way you watch a movie. You sit there and watch, letting it all sink in. Cool. Imagine in the movie, you see a girl staring out the back seat of a car window, moving quickly along the highway, and you see her and you see the field passing with little white puffs of seeds floating against the backdrop of a grey sky. Do you feel anything? Probably, in a sort of unconscious way. It is the sense of her longing, maybe. It is despair and hope mixing together in a glass, becoming inseparable. It is the time you sat in her seat staring out the window lost in your own thoughts. Do you need to explain what it is about the scene that made you feel that way? You can, that’s cool, but it isn’t necessary to feel it, because it’s already there.
Think of a song, one where you can’t really understand the lyrics. Like BTSTU by Jai Paul. Like re: Stacks by Bon Iver. Or even Reckoner by Radiohead. If you’re like me and love these songs and have listened to them enough, you’ve probably made up lyrics that sound remotely similar to what they may or may not actually be. And the songs made you feel something, and perhaps the lyrics were related to that, or those lyrics you made up became associated with the feeling you got from the song. Whatever it is, you don’t try to figure out what to feel, you don’t think about which notes, which instruments, what the writer intended you to feel, you don’t think about how any of that relates to how you feel listening to the song. It’s simple. It’s just letting yourself become immersed in it and you feel what you feel and it’s amazing.
Read a poem. How about Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. Or Psychoanalysis: An Elegy by Jack Spicer. (I have a million more recommendations if you want. Ask me.) Let the feelings happen without trying to figure out how you got there. If you want to ask why, ask why. If not, you don’t have to. It doesn’t make it any less meaningful if you don’t understand the parts at work inside of it. Read it and chill. Poems don’t have to be gutted for meaning, just like of the rest of the media we consume. Whoever told you it has it be that way is wrong. Listen to me instead, because poetry is a beautiful world which so many people are missing out on when they don’t have to.
That’s it. In a few words, all of this advice can be summed up by saying the way to read poetry is to let the poetry happen to you without worrying about it. Not all of it is going to hit the same way, much like songs and movies and television. Some we love. Some we think is ok. Some is super boring. It’s not like we hear a song, don’t get it or don’t like it, and then give up on music altogether.
My goal is to make sure that doesn’t happen to poetry. So much so that I’ve started a project that combines visual and mental stimulation via poetry in an attempt to cultivate a new poetic culture, one that is easy and fun and full of the life of today. It’s called Sex on Sundaze, and it’s a place where I combine two beautiful worlds—the sensual physical world of the human body and the expansive and spacious interior world of poetry (aka, I write poems on skin). The idea is that poetry might be wider reaching if shared on the medium of the body, because bodies are lots of times sexy, and we like sexy stuff. All of the poems are my original work and are inspired by the person or people they are written on, with a new post every Sunday.
Obviously, poetry is really important to me, for the sole reason that I find it inspiring and beautiful and because it helps me get the world better (especially when my world starts to suck and I need someone to get me out of there). How can I not want to share something like that with everyone?
What do you think? Is poetry dying? What are some other ways that could bring it back to life?
Connect with Jessica:
Website | Sexy Poetry Project