Most people who have taken a high school English class have found themselves in a poetry unit. For some, the endless class discussions about symbolism in every line and the writing essays longer than the very poem they were writing about are enough to swear them off poetry for good. However, if you're no longer in high school English classes and the thought of reading a contemporary poem collection still makes you want to head for the hills, you may want to reconsider.
Poetry is a form of art that can help you connect to the human experience and feel validated in your own feelings and experiences, and it's changed a lot over the centuries. Here are some reasons why you don't need to feel intimidated by contemporary poetry.
More Familiar Language
Contemporary poetry is generally accepted as poetry from the mid-20th century to the present time. So, if deciphering references and language from the early 1800s made you want to tear your hair out, you may find more enjoyment reading more modern works. Not only will the language be more familiar to you, but the cultural references and innuendos will make more sense since you live in this time. You may find you connect more to the modern works of poetry, as they also may contain themes that are more relevant to your life.
Read a Style You Enjoy
Poets of the past were usually a lot more restricted with the forms they employed. However, contemporary poets don't always adhere to such a rigid structure. Some choose to use those forms, but others go in the complete opposite direction with free verse. Plus, there's everything in between. Lots of contemporary poems are also shorter than those of the past, so you don't have to commit much time to try out a piece from a new poet. If rhyme schemes make you roll your eyes or you don't jibe with the slam poetry crowd, then there are still so many options out there. You're not in high school anymore; you can choose whatever you enjoy.
No Right or Wrong Interpretations
If what intimidates you about poetry is not understanding what the poet meant to convey with certain images, symbols, or cultural references, then just let all that go. Poetry is an art form. Everybody brings different life experiences to the table when they interact with a work of art, so everyone's interpretation will be a little different. There isn't a right or wrong interpretation. Different poems may even mean different things to you at different times of your life. Your reading and interpreting poetry can be just for you. You don't have to answer to anyone—especially your English teacher. Let the words move you, inspire you, validate you, and connect with you, however that may be.
Your experience with poetry doesn't have to be restricted to the four walls of an English classroom. Let go of your intimidation and check out some contemporary poetry collections that interest you.