We’re wired to read meaning…

Thom Sullivan Poet Poetry NaPoWriMo 27

As human beings, we’re wired to read meaning into words, no matter how apparently random they are. Because we know, intuitively, that we’ve never encountered words that haven’t been produced by some sort of intelligence. Words compel us to assume an originating intelligence: a speaker, a voice or a perspective from which they’re written or spoken. Our willingness, at times, to dismiss a poem or poetry as meaningless or nonsense therefore cuts against the grain of one of our deepest intuitions. Some poems are hard work for readers, though they’re rarely – and perhaps never – meaningless. And some poems are written deliberately for us to piece together or supply a meaning ourselves. A poem that’s hard work for us can be satisfying, provided it rewards us at some level for our effort and attention. As TS Eliot wrote: ‘Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood’, and as Simone Weil wrote: ‘Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity’, even for us as readers.

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