It’s interesting how poetry can engender different reactions in people, in a similar way to song lyrics. With poetry lacking the melody of songs, there is perhaps a greater likelihood that the words may convey different meanings and emotions. No matter what the lyrics are, a song with a jolly upbeat tempo would almost certainly sound joyous and happy, or maybe extremely irritatingly annoying.
Poetry is just words
But every word is chosen carefully and the poem structured in such a way to imply a narrative. However, the real skill is when the poem’s construction allows the reader to put their own spin on the meaning.
Take my poem ‘Twisted Sheets‘ as an example. This poem speaks of the subject’s restless night, tossing and turning until dawn’s gentle light wakes them. The final two lines are:
‘Next to me lies an empty space
and my memories’
The narrative in this poem is clear, in that the subject is distressed and someone is missing from their life. But there’s also ambiguity regarding who it is that’s missing and why. Bereavement, separation, divorce are obvious themes but it could be that the person is in hospital, a care home, prison, or maybe the armed forces, or working on an oil rig. The missing person may not even be a person, maybe a much loved dog slept on the bed! The reader may interpret the poem in any of these ways and probably many more as they will relate to the poem based on their experiences.
When I write, or read, my own work I do so from my own perspective, it may be a different one to that of the reader, which means that my poetry will provoke a different emotional response in the reader than it does in myself.
All the lived experiences, relationships and knowledge of an individual come into play when there’s a need for interpretation; not just in poetry but all creative writing, and also in other artistic forms, e.g. painting, sculptures, films, music, which would make sense of the fact that different people like different things… maybe it’s down to their perspective and interpretation.
Personally, I’ve found that since becoming a poet/writer I’ve developed a greater appreciation of the subtleties of art in whatever form it takes, and an understanding of how perspective can influence one’s experience of art.
I would be interested to know your thoughts on this.