‘Every individual ought to know at least one poet from cover to cover: if not as a guide through the world, then as a yardstick for the language.’ Joseph Brodsky
My favourite readers of poetry are often those who don’t also write poetry, or not much. I come across them in conversation often enough. They’re people for whom poetry has carved out some wedge of significance in their lives. I enjoy hearing about the particularity of the poetry they enjoy. And, while there are plenty of idiosyncrasies in their tastes, there are often consistencies as well, drawn no doubt from school poetry anthologies or syllabuses. For example, the common predilection for the work of Donne, Hopkins, Yeats, Eliot, Plath, and the like.
It’s not that I dislike readers of poetry who also write poetry. I am one of them. But I know that writing poetry necessarily changes and complicates the way we read a poem. And, while this opens a reader to a different understanding of a poem and its workings, it also curtails a simpler encounter with the poem, as an aesthetic experience rather than as a made thing.