Every time I pick up a new collection of poetry my expectations are high. I am waiting for the thrill of brilliance. Often I buy the book because one poem in a literary magazine, or lines quoted in a review or promotional blurb particularly impressed or intrigued me. I may also have read other work I admired by the poet. As my eyes move deeper into the pages, disappointment can set in. It seems the best poems are positioned at the front, and in what follows, that original spark fades. So what was I actually looking for, I wonder, that couldn’t be sustained. I came up with a list of possibilities.
What I ask from poetry:
- To be engaged with something I have never experienced before
- To find captured in words what I have felt but could not express
- To show me the familiar in a new light
- To awaken my senses
- To give me insight
- To touch my emotions
- To delight me with its wit
- To uplift me with its artistry
Of course, prescribing for others is easy. The next question is: how would my own poems fare under the same scrutiny? Is it enough just to write down anything I please for my own entertainment, or should I demand of myself a larger purpose? In other words, why would a stranger even want to read what I write?
It’s a humbling thought indeed.