Poetry is written to be heard the way a song is meant to be sung. Poetry has been around for ages and enjoyed from children to adults alike. Poetry is not just words on paper that imparts data; it is much more than that. Poetry is an art form that in order to be fully understood, one has to be able to analyze read between the lines.
Analyzing poetry can be a daunting task. One may have to read the poem several times with a dictionary handy, just to get an idea what the poem is about. Some poems are made of elaborate statements while only using as few words as possible. The beauty of poetry is being able to visualize what the writer is trying to communicate to the reader and putting it into their own words and scenario.
“My Papa’s Waltz,” by Theodore Roethke can be interpreted in many ways. At first, it can be construed as a child writing about his alcoholic father and the pain that was inflicted on the small boy by the father’s actions. After rereading the poem, the reader can actually see that the father is frolicking about with his son, he may have had a little too much to drink, but that does not depict alcoholism nor abuse. Roethke was shattered when his father died suddenly of a heart attack, when the young man was only fifteen years old. This poem shows him reminiscing about the good times he had with father.
“White Lies,” by Natasha Tretheway is a touching poem about a young girl dealing with her skin color and trying to find acceptance in a judgmental world. A reader can feel the little girl’s pain, loneliness, shame, and fear as the poem is read. Tretheway mentions colors several times in the poem, which alerts the reader on the importance of color throughout. “I could easily tell the white folk/that we lived uptown, / not in that pink and green/ shanty-fied shotgun section/ along the tracks.” (7-11) for a little girl to feel so ashamed of whom she is and where she came from is heartbreaking and Tretheway put it into perfect detail.
“My Childhood-Home I See Again,” by Abraham Lincoln is a two-part poem that deals with the issue of memory and having a sense of ourselves in relation to the past. Lincoln used descriptive words to pull the reader into his life and see what it was like for him to grow up. Lincoln wrote the poem after visiting his home of Pigeon Creek, Indiana in 1844. Twelve years after the poem was written, Abraham Lincoln was elected the sixteenth president of the United Sates.
Poetry can tell a story about many things. The poet has a story to tell. How the reader interrupts that story is up to them. The reader may not get out of the poem what the poet put into it.
My Childhood-Home I See Again-Lincoln
A Short Guide to Reading Poetry
Kennedy, X.J. and Gioia, Dana. Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 2nd Edition New York: Pearson Longman 2008