Introduction to Poetry 101

When I try talking to people about poetry, I often get reactions like: “I’m just not the poetry type” or “ It makes no sense to me”, and though I truly love and appreciate the art of poetry now, I admit I used to think the same back in high school.
The problem, for me at least, was that I overcomplicated it. Most people when they read a poem, tend to be blinded by the fancy words and atypical sentence structure, and because they’re not used to it, they usually don’t know how to interpret it.

My intention with Poetry 101 is to write about what I have learned regarding both reading and writing poetry, and share with you the different aspects of poetry.

My first tip for “dealing” with poetry is to view it like you would a painting or a piece of music. Most poems are about feelings. When you listen to music, whether with or without lyrics, you can hear if it is meant to be a sad or a happy tune. The same goes for poetry. The first time you read a poem, no matter if you “understand” it or not, you will be left with a certain feeling.

My second tip is to read the poem aloud. Poetry is written with the intent of being spoken aloud in mind, and by only reading it in your head, you might miss some important sounds or rhythms, (which we will get to later), that goes into understanding the poem.

Another tip is to start off slowly. If you are not a big poetry reader but would like to understand it better and get more into it, don’t jump right into Shakespeare or John Keats or Lord Byron. Start instead with more contemporary poets, as they will usually make use of a more current vocabulary. Let me give you an example:


“Thou still unravished bride of quietness,

Thou foster child of silence and slow time,

Sylvan historian, who canst thus express

A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme[…]”

Ode on a Grecian Urn (1-4)
John Keats


“Once when I was running,

From all that haunted me;

To the dark I was succumbing –

To what hurt unbearably[…]”

Self Love (1-4)
Lang Leav


As you can probably tell, the first poem by John Keats uses a vocabulary in sync with his time, (1795-1821), but not in sync with ours. The second poem however is easier to tackle since it makes use of current glossary.

Since this is only meant to be a short introduction into the Poetry 101 series I will end it here. In later posts I will write more in-depth about use of vocabulary, figurative language in poetry, rhyme, sound, rhythm etc. to further explain the different aspects of poetry.


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