I generally don’t read as much poetry as I would like. However, this weekend I was in a bookstore with my friend Lisette, and she recommended a nice Dutch poet, so I suddenly found myself buying the 400 page-long collected works of Ingmar Heytze. Reading more poetry is one of my continuous new-years resolutions, but I don’t often get round to it. It’s silly because I know it makes me happy. Why is reading poetry so hard to get into?
Layers of Meaning
My theory is that a good poem holds several layers of meaning/depth. The top layer is what makes for its initial appeal: it catches your attention or unearths some kind of emotional response in you. This layer is very personal as no two people are the same. Then there are deeper layers that come forward as you start to unravel the poem’s meaning and do an academic analysis and so on. These layers are also personal but less so than the top one. They determine whether a poem is generally though of as ‘good’ and whether it holds up on re-reads. However, if you are not forced by a teacher or professor to read a poem, you usually don’t get to these layers without that initial spark of personal appeal. I’m often scared off because the top layer doesn’t immediately speak to me. The trick here would be to extend my spark-range and thus try more different kinds of poetry to discover what I really like. But how do I do that?
When To Read it?
When I read books, I usually read one to a few at a time and go through them cover to cover before I put them back on my bookshelf. How does that work for poetry? I used to believe that one shouldn’t read too many poems at a time in order to fully appreciate them. However, while reading Heytze’s work I realized that 50 pages at a time are really no problem. The only issue I’ve encountered is that when I read before I go to sleep, I’m usually too tired to take on anything as intricate as a poem. And then there are are the five other books I’m reading :). What do you think?
For any of you out there who read Dutch – I can really recommend Heytze, apart from the volumes towards the middle where he gets a bit too cynical for my taste.