There are those who read, and then there are those who read poetry. I have known several people in my life who have been passionate readers, and even more people who were open to how much they might enjoy reading. Unfortunately, a love of mine that rarely saw audience was poetry. Much like most other literature, there are false claims that all poetry could be good, but that is not true. There is abysmal poetry, but there is, albeit rarely, soul stirring poetry.
The first few times that I came across good poetry was in 12 grade when I thoroughly enjoyed the poetry that I was to study, in spite of my friends trying to convince me otherwise. Even our English teachers gave up on poetry, one of them claiming that poetry could never be taught. If you enjoy poetry, you just do, and if you don’t, then poetry might just not be the literature for you. There are few sentences I disagree with more than this. This does not stem from experienced reading of poetry (or people), but an intuition that anyone will probably understand. I truly believe, that there is only a need for an interesting story, or an explanation, behind rhymed or free verses to make it appealing to people who have the patience to stand a string of unnecessary lines, to finally find something that speaks to them. What I think is the reason for poetry not being popular enough, is that it requires much more patience, and (for most people) not enough profit at the end of it.
Notwithstanding whether or not one likes poetry, there are certain poems which need to be discovered and read, whether it is the embracing the earth, or an utter rejection of the society. Some of these poems of the following list have carried themselves to be my favorites after a span of over a year, and some have only just condensed into my mind. Regardless, here are some of the poems that I think might change your mind about poetry:
1. The Primer by Christina Davis
This has to be, honestly, the shortest poem with the most impact. It is succinct, and plenty, both at the same time. Whatever purpose it needed to admit, it did so with dignity.
2. Tithonus by Lord Alfred Tennyson
This is a poem written way back in 1859, but do not let that discourage you. The overview of the story is that Eos, the goddess of dawn, and Tithonus’ (a mortal) lover, asked for immortality from Zeus for Tithonus, and Zeus granted her that. This meant that Tithonus would live forever. But a grave error on Eos’ part resulted in him not obtaining eternal youth and he started to grow ever old with time. Eos, on the other hand, was a goddess and never aged. The poem is a dramatic monologue that Tithonus narrates, helpless about the state of his body and mind. He has become a mere shadow of himself. It is long and weary, but SparkNotes read will be more than worth your time.
3. The Last Duchess by Robert Browning
Robert Browning is a shocking poet, to say the least. Whether it is him talking about a man strangling his lover to death with her own beautiful, golden hair, or that his protagonist is talking to a messenger about his dead wife (whom he presumably killed). The poem is a dramatic monologue, and a Duke is talking to a messenger who has been sent to the Duke for the arrangement of marriage with another powerful family. While he is showing the messenger around, they come across a veiled portrait of an exceptionally young and lovely girl (who, we find out, is the wife of the Duke). The lines “I gave commands; the smiles stopped altogether”, gives me chills to this day.
4. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot has been one of the poets that I have loved for a while now, and his post-modern poetry actually appeals to me more than I generally care to admit. This particular poem is a fruitful insight into the mind of an overeducated man who wants to (probably) consummate his relationship with a potential lover. Classic Eliot does consist of a dark cityscape, and an eventual idea of destruction. But in spite of that, we never lose sight of the protagonist who is neurotic, and eccentric, exactly the kind of protagonist who we like to read about. The poem is long (and can get tedious), but it is simple and articulate.
These are only some of the poems that I have come to love over a longer period of time. Other poets like Charles Bukowski, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath have always intrigued me, and transformed me into a patient reader, a quality that ever reader should hope for. After all, you never know how slow you need to go to finally get to where you want to go.