Understanding a Poem


A quotation:

“It was said of the poet that he tortured the English language but it was never forced to reveal its meaning”


Understanding a Poem


This may seem a rather philistine evaluation
But it sometimes seems to me that a poem’s prestige
Is in inverse proportion to its understandability
Why is it that some of the most impenetrable poetry

The most recondite versification
Is considered such “high art”?
This is not an attempt to undermine the legitimate
Musings of poets whose work illustrates

Some aspect of history, or art, or religion,
Of philosophy or the sciences or metaphysics
Each of these spheres of endeavour uses
Its own precise language and descriptive terminology

No, my objection is the excessive use of
Metaphor and simile, of tropes and figurative language
Thus the onus is on the reader is to unravel
This byzantine labyrinth of tortured prose

So that eventually understanding might be reached
Always assuming that is the object and the prize
And please don’t think I am simply pleading
That all poetry should be devoid of difficulty

Life itself is rarely ever crystal clear
As to its meaning and purpose
But in our writing let us endeavour
To shed more light on our thoughts

So let poets use all the arts and wiles
Of their craft – verse that rhymes
Or lines that are open or free or as they please
But let the language of their opus
Speak to the reader in terms both loud and clear
Leaving no doubt what is their message to the world

Ken Fisher

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