Some poems are easy to relate to, others take time and more than one reading to understand.
Poetry that can be related to instantly, understood easily has an obvious appeal. We can see what has inspired the writer, what he/she is seeing, hearing, feeling at the time of writing.
What about the poems that have to be read, re-read, left for days, maybe months or even years before being returned to – do these have greater depth or are they too full of obfuscation and not worth giving time to?
If we expect to ‘get’ a poem at the first reading, that is like wanting instant gratification – an instant caffeine fix or adrenalin rush. Such poems are enjoyable – there is often a very simple but deep message in an easily accessible poem. There are haiku which say so much in very few words. ‘Less is more.’
Writers are told to ‘show not tell’ and sometimes the reader has to search behind the curtain of words to see the message that is being shown but in a rather illusive way. We are looking into a room through a net curtain.
If we read a poem that challenges us, makes us ponder upon the meaning, wonder at the message, then we will be drawn back again and again. Like a painting that has so much detail, we can see more and more each time we look at it. Or, when gazing out over a mountainous landscape, it’s impossible to take all of it in, to see into all the gulleys, rocky formations, wooded and moorland areas. Each time we return we become more familiar with the detail, the layout of the land.
As we look out to sea there are so many hints of blue, green, azure, turquoise, white, brown, wine red and opalescent glows in water that a child would probably paint a schematic ‘blue’. We learn to ‘read’ colours in land and seascapes, learning to look deeply, search for the true colours. Perhaps when reading a poem, rather than take it superficially – even an ostensibly simple poem, we should be looking beyond the obvious. And with those that are not so obvious at all, we really have to mine the depths and return again and again until we find the seams of gold.