I mentioned in a post titled “I wish I could hate you” that I like poetry but dislike poems. When I first wrote that, it served as a moment of self-discovery. Part of me has always known this truth about myself, but writing it was like discovering it for the first time. It made it real.
Admitting to not liking poems is kind of like admitting that you don’t like dogs. Side note: I don’t like dogs, not even when they are puppies. I know what you’re thinking but I’m not a cat person either and dislike cats even more than I dislike dogs. I don’t like chocolate ice cream either. Now that you are all enraged and confused, let’s talk about poetry.
Why do I like poetry? Well I think it’s because I like things that fit. Things that tie up or reconnect well. Things that flow smoothly and then abruptly stop… only to pick back up again.
I like the poetry of life and the poetry of art. I like the poetry of a great movie or a song that’s particularly touching, but it’s only on rare occasions that I actually appreciate the poetry of poems.
Why do I not like poems? The majority of poems that I have read seem superficial and vapid. I struggle to connect with them because many of them are void of context.
Don’t hear what I’m not saying. There are some poems that I really love but I have to search hard to find a poem that makes an impact on my emotional psyche.
It is difficult, at least for me, to derive meaning outside of relationship and outside of story. Reading poems outside of their authors context, places the burden of meaning on me and I don’t want that responsibility. Many readers enjoy this burden because the poem inspires them to be creative and then they can manipulate the poem to mean whatever they need it to mean, but I hate it.
I want to know what the author meant. I want to know who he or she is and how they felt writing their poem. I’ve found that when I do know the author, or at least something about the author, my enjoyment of their poetry is dramaticly increased.
As I think about my relationship to poems, I can’t help but draw a connection to my relationship with strangers.
When I read a poem but don’t know the author, the poem becomes a fairly meaningless collection of consonants and vowels that struggle to make up words.
Similarly when I meet a stranger, but don’t know their story, they become just a body. A collection of arms and legs that have the appearance of life but, at least to me, have not become a person yet. A body, void of personality and story, is just a body. It’s just flesh. Easily objectified, judged, or ignored. But add a back story, a personality, a sense of humor, and what was just a body or collection of words becomes a PERSON, becomes poetry.
It is a struggle to make the shift from seeing people as a just bodies. It requires that we transcend the physical and look to the emotional and spiritual, and that has always been difficult for me. I’m clearly not the only one either. Superficial objectification and judgment are not just my problems. They are our society’s problems.
It’s much easier to judge a book by its cover than it is to read the book and then review and interact with its content. It’s easier to make assumptions based on a person’s clothing than it is to take the time to get to know their character. It is much simpler to see stature than story, boobs than brains but I’m not satisfied seeing people this way and so I am working to push past the physical in order to connect on emotional and even spiritual levels.
I’m not perfect so I welcome ideas from any of you that have struggled with this. I will say that the thing that has helped me the most recently is to notice a person’s eyes.
It’s been said that, “The eyes are the window to the soul” and so it is only natural that the eyes become the road that we travel on the journey from body to soul.
Eyes are emotional body parts. They are first physical and therefore part of noticing the way someone looks but they also express and show the emotional side of a person. Looking into a person’s eyes helps me transition from noticing their body to noticing their soul.
When I remember to notice a stranger’s eyes, it becomes much easier for me to connect with them and have conversations deeper than small talk about the weather.
What things help you connect to people and see them as more than just a collection of body parts?