It’s not so much that the work of published poets offers models, as about giving us ideas about how others craft their poetic work which we can experiment with in our own poetry. The poets many of us admire, learned to hone their craft mainly through reading poetry widely and prolifically, not solely (if at all) through attending classes and workshops. Reading poetry not only provides us with examples of how others practiced their craft, but is also a source of inspiration and creative stimulation.
It’s also vital that poetry is read aloud in order to fully engage the body as well as the heart and the mind. Poetry is a marriage of the senses, the mind and the heart, and reading it on the page doesn’t achieve the same physiological effect that reading it aloud always does. Let the lines and the content dictate the flow of the reading, not some formulaic pattern that has you stopping at the end of every line. Let yourself pause where the content suggests you pause, move on where the content suggests you move on ─ tune in and you’ll know how to read any poem.
Read aloud every phrase and line in the following two excerpts as you would eat one of your favorite foods…savor every bite with every taste-bud alert. Enjoy!
Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
The wings of a moth in the beak of an owl?
[from Mary Oliver’s “Some Questions You Might Ask.” In S.Astley (ed.).
Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, 2003, p. 43]
Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
[from Mark Strand’s “Eating Poetry.” In S.Astley (ed.).
Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, 2003, p. 449]