This past weekend, I attended a reading in Hudson, NY for the poet George Quasha. He read from his book Glossodelia Attracts: Preverbs. Before you look it up, the words “glossodelia” and “preverbs” are not words found in the dictionary. “It’s something I made up,” Quasha said before he began reading. This would be a common aside throughout the reading. I became frustrated with these interjections. The definitions themselves didn’t seem to add anything to my overall understanding of these poems. I wished that he would let the words speak for themselves.
This theme of defining words for readers has arisen a few times during our workshop. I believe that definitions aren’t necessary. They speak to a lack of trust and confidence in writers to let the readers form their own understanding of the poems. Therefore, once the poem is on the page and shared with the world, I believe it is fair game for interpretations.
Word definitions can be constricting. I hate that a word or group of words should possess only one meaning. Words are meant to be versatile! A few classmates and I agreed that when presented with an unknown word, we understood its meaning based on its sound or the way it was spelled before we looked up the meaning in the dictionary.
Quasha’s definitions for his words confined me to a strict (and quite frankly, boring) interpretation of his work. I found myself dissatisfied with his preset prescription of his poems’ meanings. I have spoken to a few readers who have asked, “Is this what the poet intends? Is my reading how it is supposed to be read?” To which I say, there is no right or wrong way to read a text. There are infinite readings of any poem, and ultimately, I disregarded Quasha’s own definitions of “preverbs” and “glossodelia” in place of my own.