Ahhh, the emails I’ve gotten since I started studying Poetic Medicine. And none of them are about the medicine, either. OK, well, maybe a few who tell me “I hate poetry, it would never heal me from hating it.” (Totally funny line.)
Before you flip the switch to “I hate poetry,” consider this: hating poetry is not a binary decision. It’s not “I hate it,” or “I love it,” it’s a matter of finding what you love. Like a soul mate or the perfect haircut. It takes a while, and takes some experimentation.
Start with the easy stuff first. Choose short poems over long poems. They take a shorter time to read and you can probably figure out what they are about without a lot of puzzling.
If you have bad memories of long, complicated poems, don’t try to figure them out again. Move on.
Choose a concrete topic instead of an abstract one. Poems about nature, food, houses are less of a problem than poems about dreams, existential drama, or love. Particularly love.
Choose a poem that doesn’t rhyme over one that does. Often, they are easier to understand. Understanding leads to love.
Choose a poem you would like to read rather one that gets critical praise for meter and rhyme scheme. Poetic tools are important, but not at the beginning. If you had to memorize poems when you were younger, and you still remember those days with fear and loathing, remember that reading is not memorizing.
Poetry is a connection between your heart and a writer’s heart. It won’t hunt you down and it won’t hurt you. Reading poetry you like is a special joy in life that you can experience for free and with the thought that you don’t need to buy anything special to read or appreciate poetry. Enjoy it because it makes you feel good. That is enough.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing.