Over the years I’ve encountered a road block that stumps many people in the appreciation of poetry.  Including people who can fully embrace other artistic expression such as painting and music.

One way to remove that road block is to reassure them that you don’t have to ‘understand’ a poem to love or relate to it, any more than you need to ‘understand’ a painting or a piece of music. You can love it first and understand it later, or in some cases, never quite understand it at all.  Or think you understand it and then realise you don’t. Or add new layers of understanding.  You get the picture.

So, I was struck by this statement of TS Eliot, quoted by Adam Nicholson, that a feature of genuine poetry is its capacity to communicate even before being understood.

‘Eliot in his essay on Dante, that ‘genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood’.

Source: The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters (London: William Collins, 2015), p. 77

Photo credit: pixabay.com


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