Rereadings: Tennyson

August 13, 2010 at 12:00 am 6 comments


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!

–Corey

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!

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Discussion Post: The Mayor of Casterbridge Weekly Geeks: Recommendations

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kate  |  August 13, 2010 at 7:19 am

    I am with you on the narrative poems, buddy! Normally, I cannot stand poetry — I don’t know why, but somehow it always smacks of self-indulgence. Even Neil Gaiman’s poetry in Fragile Things, which I am sure is wonderful, just didn’t appeal to me.

    That said, Tennyson sounds wonderful. “The Lady of Shalott” is one of those poems that makes me feel differently each time I read it — sometimes it feels tragic, sometimes romantic, sometimes the whole thing just makes me unspeakably angry. But it’s undeniably an excellent poem :)

    Reply
    • 2. Corey  |  August 13, 2010 at 5:19 pm

      Non-narrative poetry just reeks of “Ah, feelings! So many feelings! I must write them out in the most pompous way possible! Aaahhh!” Self-indulgent indeed. Well put, buddy!

      Hugs for Tennyson anyway. Queen Victoria clearly knew what she was talking about in this regard. (Although I do rather wonder who Albert’s favorite poet was since he was clearly a man of good tastes in all arenas!)

      And I agree with you about “The Lady of Shalott.” It felt so much more sad this time around for some reason whereas the first time around I found much lighter. I’ll have to read it again in a few months and see what it has become by then.

      Reply
  • 3. silverseason  |  August 15, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Well, I treasure some of the short ones because they express something I could not express so well. I have a decorative copy of Crossing the Bar, framed, hanging on the wall where I see it passing into and out of my home office.

    “Twilight and evening bell,
    And after that the dark….”

    Reply
  • 4. Shannon  |  August 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I get frustrated with poetry because I always feel like I’m not getting something. Like, I was always that ONE STUDENT in the English Dept. in college who just didn’t “get” all the stuff everyone else was getting out of the poems we had to read. And the essays — oh god, the essays! How can you write a 15-page paper on a poem that’s only one page long?? It all felt, and feels, so forced to me.

    That being said, there is a lot of poetry I like. But it’s mostly prosey-feeling and very narrative, and most of it modern… although Tennyson does happen to be a favorite. My mother-in-law is a poet in the vein of Adrienne Rich, and I really like the type of stuff she writes, but some of her poetry-making pals? Not so much.

    Reply
  • 5. Literary Locales: Keats House « Literary Transgressions  |  January 20, 2011 at 6:11 am

    […] girl, but specificity about him is not part of my literary repertoire. (And you all know how I feel about poetry in general.) All the same, this past Sunday I discovered his house in Hampstead and took a turn […]

    Reply
  • […] anything (which I guess means the Beats are out as a whole) 3. Poetry (unless it’s Tennyson or […]

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