I’ve reviewd a lot of poems and I have tended to ding the poet for writing lines that don’t make sense. Poetry has to make at least some sense, doesn’t it? The thing is, some poetry refers to topics that only the poet understands. Pick any poem out of any book and you’ll probably discover that you do not understand the poem completely.


Read it again.

Do you understand it yet?

Read it again!

This is a tough lesson to grasp. In prose, understanding is paramount. In poetry vision, sound, and feel are more important. We don’t need a clear understanding to appreciate a poem. It’s a hard lesson that I hope I’ve learned. Now when I don’t understand the words, I re-read and re-read again until I at least come closer. I don’t get upset if I never understand it. The following paragraph is from a recent book I read.

* First of all, don’t be deterred if you do not understand a poem right away — or even after repeated readings. Rejecting something we claim  not to understand is a cop-out. It’s the easy way off the proverbial hook. Try, instead, to experience what’s in the poem, even if that experience eludes your understanding. Let the poet startle and perplex you. Learn to go with it, accept it on its own terms, without qualifying at the first difficulty. The key to reading poems is openness. You need to be receptive, to take things as they come, to be alert enough to notice things but relaxed enough to let them drift together as they will. T.S. Eliot though a poem could be appreciated and enjoyed before it was understood. One of the pleasures of reading poetry is mulling over a poem and its reverberations, perhaps for a lifetime. – John Drury, “Creating Poetry” Writer’s Digest Books, 1991

My poem below has befuddled reviewers that know the title. I thought it would be a simple matter to iterpret it. Every word makes perfect sense to me. If you can figure out the subject, consider yourself an expert with words and ideas.

Wars ravage over you, around you,
at the point of friction,
fueled by your heat.
They preach about you but
never try on your shoes.
They live in fear of greener grass,
common good and tea with friends.
We try sometimes to look
out of our childrens’ eyes
to see God’s world,
and the burning bush blinds us
to His promise and
to our hopes and dreams.
But when you touch me,
when we open our mouths
and speak of our feelings,
with conviction, from the heart.
The heat of forces balanced
on this moving scale sooth us,
and we lose our fear of you,
because it’s inside us.
And when the new day dawns,
we live, stuck in our humble home,
sheltered from wars
and forces beyond our
understanding, or care
and we protect them from each other
with our love.