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Getting into Poetry Thursday, 11 February 2010

Posted by carryapoem in Events, Poetry in Edinburgh.

Getting into Poetry is a reading group for people who feel they’re not very sure about how to discuss poetry and what to read, and are a little anxious sometimes that they just don’t know enough to make worthwhile comments on a poem. The idea is that they’ll quickly sort out this misapprehension, and feel happy about diving in to one of the regular poetry reading sessions in the library. And every single time, the GIPs end up uncovering new meaning for me in a poem that I thought I knew.

Reading poems on my own or with other people builds up a heap of observations and ideas and scrawled questions in the margins, from which I know I’ll end up picking out the ones that help me make sense of what I’m reading and how I feel about it. ‘Breaking down the poem like we did at school’? Aw no, no, no – it’s building up thoughts and testing assumptions and finding connections, and the blinding flash of mental lightbulbs suddenly switching on.

It’s some of the most fun it’s possible to have in the library, short of putting my music up really loud and dancing round the lending section (well, nobody else was there at the time).

The sessions we held as part of the Carry a Poem campaign went very well. In the first, everyone settled into a relaxed space to read poems, argue and change their minds, or mine. We talked about ideas for what to read at the second session – for which I try to dig out some poem that will frighten the socks off everyone for a minute, till they see what I’m up to and realise they can talk just as happily about that as about the previous week’s poems – and where I no longer get to enjoy the sound of my own voice: from here on, I have to shut up and let everyone else really get into their stride.

I’ve got part of a poem by W S Graham stuck above the computer here. It covers pretty much all of my reader development strategy, but concisely:

The spaces in the poem are yours.
They are the place where you
Can enter as yourself alone
And think anything in.

It’s vital feel that you are being yourself when you read poems, not uncomfortably adopting ideas you think you should have. But it’s a revelation to have company. A lovely piece of feedback from the sessions seems to suggest just that:

If you’ve ever thought of poetry as a thing for other people; a thing too impenetrable to tackle; or too complicated, then you should come and be proved wrong! Language is for everyone, and it turns out it’s perfectly OK to say ‘what’s that all about?’

If you missed our Getting into Poetry sessions, there’s still time to be involved in our final session on Saturday 27 February at 11am… Our reading group sessions (and this post!) are facilitated by the SPL’s Lilias Fraser


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