Deciphering Poetry

by , Wednesday February 17, 2016
Deciphering Poetry

Deciphering Poetry

a blog by Mercury Chap Saiba


Poems are everywhere around us - from elementary school textbooks to tiny advertisement pamphlets - the world is overwhelmed with words written in verse that make everything seem brighter, and sometimes way more dramatic!


But poetry is a funny language.


For some, a poem is just a set of sentences arranged in a particular order. But for many, it means much, much more...


When Shakespeare wrote:

Not marble nor gilded monuments

Of princes, shall outlive this rhyme.

Or when Sylvia Plath wrote a poem in the perspective of a mirror, they both must have been thinking about something. Something that mattered a lot. Not to you, not to me - but to them. Maybe Shakespeare wasn’t really boasting about his skills, or maybe Sylvia Plath wasn’t writing in the perspective of a mirror. Maybe she was in fact writing about herself as the mirror.


In our English classes we discuss their poems, their thoughts. But we don't decipher the meaning completely. It’s because we mainly focus on the language, the metaphors and similes coming along the way. But what if all our discussions on these poetic devices don’t make sense?


Poetry is never straightforward and furthermore poets, well, they purposefully don't make it easy to read. A few metaphors and similes become hurdles in our investigation to find meaning.


If we look at it that way, we could see that poetry isn’t about poetic devices or pretty references. All those things are there merely to puzzle us.


What is poetry then?


The answer is simple: it’s everything we see and hear. Right from the beginning of our lives - from the beating of our heart, the pleasant cacophony of a crying infant, to the dance of the trees with the wind - everything is poetry.


What you see is what you think about. What you think is how you feel. And how you feel is how you react.


Poets react by pouring out their emotions in a few verses. They want to express exactly what they feel. So, in other words, a poem is an outburst and poetry is a way of doing it. It is an expression, a way to tell how you feel in a way that no one will disagree with.


It’s the metaphors, the refrains, the alliterations which lead the reader to various misconceptions about the poem; one being that whatever they weren’t able to talk about, poets just wrote in the form of poems, which only adds to the bewilderment we couldn’t possibly comprehend. We are then obliged to make our own perceptions about it - and that’s the beauty of it!


It is a secret. Through the ages, poets came and left their inky marks on pieces of paper and in our hearts. Then they went on to experience new journeys. The moment they set their pens to paper, the moment they scribbled their thoughts out - their anger, sadness, happiness, loneliness - they latched their feelings deep inside those letters with an invisible lock we'll never find a key to.


No one knows what William Carlos Williams meant by:

So much Depends


A red wheel barrow

Glazed with rain


Besides the white


It's a sixteen word poem, but it holds a hundred analyses.


No one knows exactly what Walt Whitman was thinking when he inked ‘A Clear Midnight Sky’. These poets wrote their secrets in the most perplexing way possible and it can be argued that their secrets died with them. “Go figure it out,” that’s what they tell us. And we do, or we try, with all our passion. Have you noticed that no one really thinks the same thing about the same piece of poetry?


Every perception is different when we think about a poem. Some may feel it's sad, some may feel it's teaching a lesson. But it is something we ought to try and figure out on our own because it lets us know more about ourselves too. Isn’t it beautiful how the same group of words can lead to completely different thoughts?


A gamut of covert feelings, I call it. Feelings of love, feelings of pain, agony, and relief. Why do you think most of the heartbroken people in this world are poets? It could be because they feel too much. That pain hurts so much that it soon warps itself outward in the form of beautifully written words. If a happy person looks at a flower, she may see a bright dangling flower smiling at the rays of the sun. But then if a sad person looks at the same flower, she may just see that the flower is dangling, trying to get out of its own tight, growing grip.


Poetry is universal. It thrives in the heart of each person. It flows in our blood. We all have a poet hidden away, deep inside of us, if we can just find the right words. It’s as simple as that. There is no person in this world who cannot be a poet. Everyone needs a way to open up their heart. And when it can be done in such an interesting way, then why not? It's similar to writing a diary so that no one knows what you’re saying - except for you of course. It is completely personal and anyone may read it without completely understanding.


Poetry is one thing we don’t write for anyone else. We write it for ourselves. That’s what makes poetry different from any other forms of writing. But after all this ranting about what poetry really is, we can never answer this definitively. It’s like a power which hovers around us and is everywhere. It’s like a mythical being that we could never recognize ;-)


Just like the universe, poetry, too, is a mystery.

Just like life, poetry doesn’t have one meaning. The meanings are infinite.


So, what does poetry mean to you?



Thank you to @Mercury Chap Saiba for writing this blog post and designing the banner!

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