Three reading mysteries of life:
- Kids love to be read to and mostly love reading–until around ages 11 or 12, when interest in reading plummets for most of them. What gives? Why? Is it the “adult” poking forward, elbowing the “child” into the background? Is it the oncoming angst of adolescence? Is it their teachers who turn every poem, story, and novel into an analytical punching bag vs. a piece of writing to be enjoyed and experienced? Is it everyone’s favorite straw man (or android): technology, in all its wily, Siren-call forms? A mystery, when you consider the unique benefits of reading for enjoyment.
- Kids love poetry; adults do not. For little kids, poetry comes in the form of children’s books. The good Doctor Seuss, for instance. Goodnight, Moon. The Runaway Bunny. Even, on a basic level, Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes, which still enjoy deep roots in the rich earth of our memories. The New York Times poetry editor, David Orr, thinks it’s all about sound. This theory tells us that poets who are conscious of sound devices over all might be on to something. Nevertheless, a mystery, when you consider the beauty and economy of poetry, a genre that can touch truths like no other.
- General readers label all poetry as inscrutable. Which brings us to the question of accessible vs. inscrutable poetry. Which type of poem is most attractive to the lay reader who has become an adolescent and given up nursery rhymes by large white waterfowl trying to stay clear of pillows? I would guess accessible. Too bad “accessible” is equated with “easy” by the Guardians of Poetry Doomed (they’re out there!). Easy poetry is often deemed lousy poetry by high school English teachers and college professors who have tortured poems and tied cement blocks to the ankles of the genre, forcing it overboard, but most readers who have moved on to novels, thank you, and “nonfiction” (if there is such a thing anymore), you’re welcome, really want no part of the inscrutable stuff that so delights the theoretical, tweed jacket crowd. A mystery, when you consider poetry is a genre worth saving, not guarding.