Reading poems to make yourself happy is a jolly thing to do. No pressure to score marks, understand the nuances, interpret every use of imagery or write an explanation of certain lines that lingers in mind. A reader reads poems and enjoys the process. Pure bliss, isn’t it? You will agree with me.
Now imagine someone reading a poem under constant pressure. What kind of questions may the teacher ask? Which symbols has the poet used? What is the rhyme scheme? What is the mood of the poet? And many questions keep coming into the mind of a reader who studies a poem rather than reading it for fun.
And a critic, my friends, is a student, a reader and a teacher at the same time. More pressure than any of the three persons (in the previous sentence) always keeps the critic floored – finding every possible critical aspect in the poem and bringing it to the fore (for students to learn more) and casual readers to determine whether to read this one or not. Do you see? The job of a poetry critic is tough, tougher than that of a critic who writes about novels.
So, the question arises, what’s the best way to critique a poem or a poetry collection? Is there a template a critic can unroll and move ahead with the job? What should one do?
Well, in my experience, the best way to deal with a poem is an approach that comes packed with many different approaches. I know I may sound confusing. However, when you read a poem, many things flash into your mind. The form of the poem, number of lines, style of writing, the mood of the poet, the handling of the narrative, the themes, who are the major persons, and what is the overall message – these are many of the ideas one may think about in the first go at the poem. Do you agree? So, in complex words, you are using Structuralism, formalism, close reading method, sort of Deconstruction, linguistic analysis of the text and also the historical (Marxist) method if you consider the period in which the poet wrote, the history of the poet himself and other details about the poet. It’s mind-boggling, isn’t it?
I guess you may have perceived already the process is tough. Nevertheless, it’s far from over yet. A critic has to evaluate the poem or the poetry collection and also find out who may be the ideal readers of such a work of literature. This ensures that the evaluation helps the poet get the right audience, and the audience gets to their taste literature (to enjoy, not to study; you have to study anything that’s there in the syllabus).
And that makes my job over for the day! I hope you liked the article (despite its formal vocabulary). I will keep bringing such articles at regular intervals. Please share your thoughts by posting comments. I will get back to everyone. All the best! Keep reading!
By Alka for The Last Critic