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.