Wednesday, July 04, 2007

One of the Great Mysteries Possibly Solved

I have written before about my not being able to understand or appreciate poetry. I’ve often wondered exactly how poets could make a living—no one I know (certainly not myself, for sure) would consider paying money for “poetry”. Or maybe that wasn’t true—because didn’t some really famous poets exist at various points in the past? Maybe the problem was within me. Maybe only I couldn’t understand poetry, while everyone else could. That could be a possible solution.

I have a new theory—one that actually came about because of something a certain female friend told me recently. Here’s the theory:

Your ability to understand, and more importantly appreciate, poetry is inversely proportional to the speed at which you normally read.

Here when I talk about “speed”, I refer to it on an extremely low level—words and sentences. I don’t care about how many novels you read a year or how long it took you to finish The Lord of the Rings. I’m talking about how fast you read your words and sentences. How many seconds (or milliseconds) did it take you to read this paragraph?

When it comes to reading speed, I’m on the faster side. I speak fast and I read fast. Poetry demands a slow reader. One who can let the words sink in—one, two, three, four at a time. One who gives each line the time it demands, to convey the deeper meaning it holds, instead of rushing hurriedly on to the next one, as a prose reader might do. And that’s where I fail.

Today, I tried reading some poetry slowly—painfully slowly, it seemed to me—and it worked. I understood more than I ever had. It actually seemed beautiful—almost as much so as a Michelangelo fresco or a Michael Jordan fade-away. Or Alicia Silverstone.

So here’s the thing—if you think you can’t appreciate poetry, just try carefully observing how fast you read it. I’ll bet you my cat, it’s probably because you’re reading it way too fast!

As a corollary, I’m guessing guys are naturally faster readers than girls. Proving it is left as an exercise to the reader.


Flavin said...

Nice one. However, I think your theory needs a small correction.

If X = Reading Speed and Y = Ability to Understand then

X α 1/Y

which means, the Ability to Understand is 'inversely' proportional to reading speed. The best example is your condition before you came up with the theory. Your Ability to Understand poetry was LOW because your Reading Speed was HIGH.

I'm going to apply this theory right away. Thanks :~).

Arnold said...

Flavin - Sorry, mate.. Careless mistake there.. Am correcting.

lara said...

lol betting your cat?.. you could barely resist running one over. when i stopped to remember that stupid cat who loved your motorcycle - in the middle of the post, i realize my normal reading pace is probably slower than your "painfully slow" pace.
and however fast i'd attempt to read ur poems, they'd still seem better than most ones in which people think big words = better.

RT .. hXc?LqD said...

hmmm .. since i've had enough time on my hands lately i found that my average of reading blogs(and only blogs - with understanding)is 4 words per second(but i have done it once and that, for me, is enough!)

and anyway,with "painfully slow" reading i tend to lose interest in whatever i am reading :|

and i CANNOT read poetry, come what may.
In school i would learn the poems we were supposed to by singing them to the tunes of some song or rap .. that's how i did it! :|