And my junior year begins. While I will admit that I was anxiously awaiting summer vacation by the time May rolled around last year, I have to say that I have never been more excited for a school year to start up again than I am this year. Along with having the opportunity to participate in creating the upcoming issue of Shenandoah, I am also taking classes for my English major that I have absolutely loved so far. One of these classes focuses on twentieth-century American poetry.
This poetry class was the course I was both excited for yet nervous about in equal measure. Poetry can be intimidating, and after a four-year break during which I took solely literature based courses, I found myself feeling extremely anxious as school crept closer about the prospect of re-immersing myself in the vastly different world of poetry. After taking so many literature classes, I am now comfortable with its format and the various ways in which one can seek to interpret meaning from a novel. Poetry, however, is a whole new ballgame, full of new terms and aspects to be analyzed. The scariest of these new realms that I have been attempting to familiarize myself with has been meter. After taking a Shakespeare course last winter, I have found myself unconsciously attempting to force all the poetry I have read thus far to fit the only meter I am currently comfortable with: iambic pentameter. Obviously, this method isn’t working out too well for me so far. After only two days of this poetry class, the sheer expanse of poetic knowledge that I have yet to comprehend is somewhat daunting. However, I find myself looking forward to expanding my limited knowledge despite my nerves.
Even though my knowledge of the technical side of poetry is limited, I have always loved reading it. I am fascinated by its ability to mean something different to every person who reads it. With literature, there is a basic message built into the plot that the author lays out for the reader to find and relate to. With poetry, finding a message is much more personal. While literature is based upon an idea created in an author’s mind, poetry seems to be the product of a poet’s soul. Reading poetry feels a lot like I imagine reading a person’s diary would feel like. The characters and events don’t seem make-believe, but feel very grounded in reality. This intimate aspect of poetry is what I love most about it, as I find myself emotionally engaged in the words I am reading in a way that the distant, “movie-like” view present in literature prevents. With poetry, I am living the words rather than viewing them as an outsider. While being so emotionally engaged in the thoughts of someone else can be overwhelming, the contemplative nature of poetry is also what makes it so exciting.
I cannot wait for a term full of introspection.
– Katie Toomb