I am, to put it lightly, not a poetry fan. It is a medium I simply have been chronically unable to get interested in or enjoy even a little. The only time I can remember enjoying poetry was in an English class about Victorian medievalism I took my first year of college. In said class, we read Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” and, for the first time in my life, I responded positively to a poem. It was all very Meet Me in Saint Louis: “Tirra lirra!” sang Sir Lancelot, “Zing, zing, zing” went my heartstrings.
Unfortunately, it’s a short poem and the class was much more preoccupied with Ivanhoe and the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 (not necessarily in conjunction, of course), so my brief Tennyson love affair was quickly brushed aside and forgotten. This week it occurred to me (sometime after feeling poorly-read after Imagined London) that giving Queen Victoria’s favorite poet a second shot was a rereading worth doing. So I hopped on the nearest trolley car (I wish!) and hastened to the library to procure some Tennyson.
I am happy to report that “The Lady of Shalott” does not disappoint the second time around. I am also pleased to say that some of Tennyson’s less sing-songy poems (“The Morte d’Arthur” and “The Charge of the Light Brigade” being two more famous selections) also proved relatively enjoyable for me and, even if I wasn’t in love with them, they were still far more pleasant a read than any other poems I’ve encountered.
I think the key for me may well be narrative poems. Poems that are just poems singing the praises of some love affair or mourning the loss of some prince (ahem, ahem, Albert!) are oftentimes pretty but I rarely feel deeply about them. Narrative poems have the capacity to be both prettily articulated and deeply moving. There is something about them that allows me to make a connection much more easily than with any other sort of poem.
What about you? Are you a poetry fan or someone who just can’t see the appeal? And are there particular types of poems that really make your heartstrings go zing, zing, zing? Tell on!
Also, just a reminder, this post is part of our Rereadings series for which we are always looking for guest authors. E-mail us at literarytransgressionsATgmail.com if you’re interested in getting involved!