Here are 20 ways of reading a poem.
In 4 Acts:
1. Dispel the notion that reading poetry is going to dramatically change your life. Your life is continually changing; most of the time you’re simply too busy to pay enough attention to it. Poems ask you to pay attention—that’s all.
2. When you read a poem, especially a poem not meant to be a “spoken word” poem, always read it out loud. (Never mind what they said in grammar school—to subvocalize so that you won’t bother your peers.) Your ear will pick up more than your head will allow. That is, the ear will tell the mind what to think.
3. Try to meet a poem on its terms not yours. If you have to “relate” to a poem in order to understand it, you aren’t reading it sufficiently. In other words, don’t try to fit the poem into your life. Try to see what world the poem creates. Then, if you are lucky, its world will help you re-see your own.
4. Whether or not you are conscious of it, you are always looking for an excuse to stop reading a poem and move on to another poem or to do something else entirely. Resist this urge as much as possible. Think of it as a Buddhist regards a pesky mosquito. The mosquito, like the poem, may be irritating, but it’s not going to kill you to brave it for a little while longer.