My reparative reading class has been a great help to our workshop: it’s a meta-analysis of how we look at texts and the faults we’ve fallen into. It’s helped a lot during our class discussion, I learned how to look at reading through a wider lens.
I bring this up because I think it’s important to look at how we read poetry. Our class does a great job of dissecting every aspect of the works we read: meter, symbolism, line breaks, spacing, rhyme scheme, everything is picked apart and put under a miscroscope. As a class we talk about how this works and what could be changed, but we don’t talk about the implications of the work we’re reading. In her essay “You’re So Paranoid You Probably Think This Essay Is About You,” Eve Sedgewick describes how we’ve fallen into a habit of over-analyzing text, and simply stopping there. Our modern lens of analysis has trained us to systematically pick apart text for formulaic essays, but hasn’t taught us to focus on the surface context and it’s implications- only to find evidence for it. Sedgewick states that we should take a step back, and look at our own analysis from a distance, and think why we analyze text through the lens that we do.
I bring this up because I believe that it’s important in anyone’s reading to balance hyper-analysis with a grain of salt- that is, to look at everything critically, but then take a step back and consider that a surface reading is also important. We shouldn’t leave out a poem’s surface context in favor of a complex breakdown. And while it might seem childish, the base impression- the way a poem makes us feel- is just as critical as any other aspect of it.