How to Read a Poem: Beginner’s Manual – by Pamela Spiro Wagner

by maggi dawn

First, forget everything you have learned,

that poetry is difficult,

that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,

with your high school equivalency diploma,

your steel-tipped boots,

or your white-collar misunderstandings.  


Do not assume meanings hidden from you:

the best poems mean what they say and say it.  


To read poetry requires only courage

enough to leap from the edge

and trust.  


Treat a poem like dirt,

humus rich and heavy from the garden.

Later it will become the fat tomatoes

and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.  


Poetry demands surrender,

language saying what is true,

doing holy things to the ordinary.


Read just one poem a day.

Someday a book of poems may open in your hands

like a daffodil offering its cup

to the sun.  


When you can name five poets

without including Bob Dylan,

when you exceed your quota

and don’t even notice,

close this manual.


You can now read poetry.


Pamela Spiro Wagner

From We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders by Pamela Spiro Wagner.

Copyright © 2009 by Pamela Spiro Wagner.