If you’re new to, intrigued by, or have already engaged with poetry, there’s a recently published gem worth holding: WHY POETRY. It’s a stellar book written by Matthew Zapruder, a poetry expert and prolific supporter of the initially oral art form: poetry. Reading it has affirmed my deepest feelings about being a poet. Keep reading to bite some meat and potatoes of this beautiful book!
As we all become older, it’s clear that beauty isn’t prescribed to us. But in poetry, language feels charged with inexplicable beauty. We feel beauty about some stanza, use of technique, or even one line that lifts our feet off the ground. This is a major theme Zapruder explores in the book, the uncanny reach of poetry.
However, this is something we can only feel through consistently reading a poem. Zapruder says early in the 9th chapter (one of my favorites!) called ‘Dream Meaning’, “The drifting, associating, linking experience that poetry creates is central to the way it makes meaning.” In other words, how words evoke meaning in poetry is based on how they’re situated together.
This creates a peculiar feeling in the mind. The power to imagine a picture through reading obviously isn’t excluded to poetry. But there is more playful room with words in poetry than in prose. Zapruder is exceptional for including a famous line from one of America’s greatest poets–a page just before the table of contents:
“Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems…” —Walt Whitman
I felt like I was in Heaven to experience Zapruder’s critique and praise of one of my favorite poems by Whitman, Song of Myself; the above quote resides in this poem.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Another major theme is the way new readers of poetry pursue a genuine reading experience. Newbies to poetry tend to be too descriptive about poetic expression. This is an innocent behavior, but one Zapruder emphasizes we should carefully observe.
The way he says to best create a well-written poem is by keeping it simple. One of my favorite poets and a successor of Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound, created a modernist movement on this basic principle: Imagism. Its first tenet goes as…”Direct treatment of the thing [image] whether subjective or objective.”
One truth (perhaps also a beauty) about getting older is coming to realize that the beauty and meaning we seek out of anything comes from simplicity. Things we desire can be achieved one step at a time. Zapruder, in various ways, says this throughout the book, while not losing the reader’s attention.
While I could describe the mechanics explained in the book, Zapruder is a more reliable source shining light on the hallmarks of poetry. There are detailed explanations about numerous poems, the utility of technique, forms to write in, rhyming, and much more.
At one point in my life, on and off with writing poetry for seven years, I once asked myself, as if speaking to the art form itself: “Why poetry?” Call it fate or not that I stumbled upon this book in a bookstore, I feel regenerated with love for poetry in reading this book. It’s the same love that found me when I began writing poetry unconsciously.
Indeed, I never intended to become a poet. This book has brought me clarity, solace, and quelled the wonder if I’m meant for this art form. Now I know I’m meant for it. Go to your local bookstore and see about purchasing this beautiful book!