How do you like your poetry?
Do you want the meaning to be apparent after the first reading, or do you prefer to be teased and let the poem unfold, piece by piece, to be savoured over time?
Alan Bennett in his book Six Poets: Hardy to Larkin states “Obviously, any poem repays study, but if it is only to be heard once and without detailed exposition, then a poem should be understandable at first hearing.”
The French poet and critic Stéphane Mallarmé took the position that three quarters of the enjoyment in poetry lay in discovering, little by little, what it means. The intrinsic part of poetry’s pleasure is to able to unravel difficulties and to solve puzzles.
I’m sat on the fence with this one and it is dependent on the mood I’m in at the time. Some days I want the poem to deliver a quick hit of emotion and dopamine and have little resistance in working out its meaning. On other days, I want to hone my detective skills and trawl through the poem, word by word, gathering each clue and solving the mystery in typical Poirot style.
It is the same when I write poetry. With some poems, I like the meaning to be obvious and allow the reader to take it away and play with it. With others, I want to create carnage, teasing the reader, leaving small clues scattered around the crime scene; taking them down blind alleys to avoid detection, but eventually allowing them the euphoria of solving the crime.
Do you have a view on the puzzles in poetry? I would love you to share it.