Living Rich: How to Read a Poem

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and… speak a few reasonable words.” If you’re a longtime reader of ETR, you know that Michael Masterson has referred to this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe several times.

It’s a reminder that there’s more to life than money. That, to be an interesting, well-rounded person, you have to spend time building the “personal you” as well as your bank account.

“Okay,” you might be saying, “I can listen to a little good music every day. I can make it a point to look at something that’s visually appealing (though maybe not a painting). And I can at least try to have a challenging or entertaining conversation. But when it comes to reading poetry… I’d rather skip that one.”

Let me try to change your mind by showing you how easy it is to read – and enjoy – a good poem. And by “good,” I mean a poem that (like a good book) you get more out of every time you read it.

  • Get yourself a collection of poetry – maybe something with “Best” in the title. Flip through and find a short poem to start with. Like this one by Langston Hughes:

A Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore –

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over –

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

  • Read it out loud, without trying to figure out what it means. And don’t stop at the end of a line. Let the punctuation show you where to pause.
  • Read it again… looking for patterns. Then read it again, feeling the rhythm. And read it again, focusing on how the strong images are reflected in the sound of the words used to describe them. And read it again, this time thinking about what it means.

By now, I’ll bet you’ve got this poem memorized. (It’s easy to memorize good poetry.) And I’ll bet you won’t forget it either.

That wasn’t hard, was it? And don’t you feel just a little bit wiser?

A poem a day. Try it.

[Ed. Note: Improving your personal self should be one of your primary goals every year. And it can be as simple as reading a poem a day. Learn how to accomplish all your goals – personal, social, business, and financial – with ETR’s Total Success Achievement program.]