I know, I know! It’s been a minute since I last wrote one of these things. However, in my defence, I’m terribly lazy. Anyways, I’ve had some thinkings over the last wee while and figured I’d write something for nobody to read.
As I’ve been glacially reading and writing about the poetry of Marianne Moore, I’ve been changing my mind about something in particular: the puzzled nature of poetry. Not two months ago, I considered poetry only poignant if it were universally understood, regardless of whether or not it were universally appreciated. Yet the more I’ve read Moore’s poetry, the more I’ve had to study and learn to understand where her mind may have been. It’s turned into something of an academic puzzle I have the privilege of solving at my own pace.
As I came to this state of mind, in something of a Jungian happenstance, Hank Green made a YouTube video briefly speaking on poetry. In reference to the opening lines from an E. E. Cummings poem, Green said,
I had to listen to this line… seven times to start to get my mind around what it means, which, sometimes, I feel like is the point of poetry; like it’s one of those boxes that you have to do a secret to figure out how to open it, except it’s made of words
It’s not the most graceful way of explaining, but for now, it means the most to me.
What I like most about that quote is that Green specifically says, “sometimes”. I feel for me to have thought all poetry must be universally understood is entirely ignorant; but I also feel that were it necessary for all poetry to be studied for true appreciation, we’d be stuck in a state of constant study, forgetting to appreciate the thing that makes it truly beautiful.
I heard recently that Mark Twain felt that he lost his appreciation for the beauty of the Mississippi River once he had learnt to master it. I think (yes, a tiny minded nobody at the end of the world is about to criticise a literary giant…) that Twain may have been wrong in his thoughts. I think he may have lost sight of the beauty of the Mississippi when he thought he had mastered her. It is possible to appreciate beauty in ignorance; it is better to appreciate beauty in learned understanding. But one must remember that we are momentary specks trying to understand a world larger than we could ever truly comprehend.