Every poetry anthology I read, I write a comment like, “I don’t read poetry that often BUT I actually really loved this”.
Does anyone else feel this obligation towards the genre? As if somehow the ghost of Elizabeth Barrett Browning is going to appear and reprimand me if I don’t disclose that I’m not an expert before reviewing?
Perhaps it’s the fog of mystery that surrounds poetry that makes me do this, or the fact that I’ve been reading novels most of my life and feel a vague sense of authority over them, whereas poetry has been strictly academic until this year. It could also just be the interpretive nature of poetry, which makes me anxious that I’ve totally missed the boat.
Recently, I’ve read a lot of really accessible poetry that has made me think, “this really isn’t that scary”, and “hey. I know that word!” So, in the case of Greta Bellamacina’s Tomorrow’s Woman, I was kind of startled back into a feeling of, “am I just too stupid to understand this, or did they forget to finish this sentence?” Thankfully, I think I’m coming to a point where I can accept that it’s probably a mixture of both. And that rather than being “too stupid”, I am just reading too literally.
Greta has powerful, beautiful imagery, of trees as star-pillars and meteors which rain down like tears, which would be lost without the reader’s ability to subvert their understanding. Abstract as this may sound, they read like images rather than miniaturised stories: they evoke emotion and create a sense of what you’ve seen or read, without requiring you to have noticed every brush stroke or understood every sentence.
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