Here are some thoughtful responses to Bernstein’s “Difficult Poetry” from the Canvas homework assignment:
What really opened my eyes was Bernstein’s checklist on identifying a difficult poem is key. The first step in understanding a difficult poem is first realizing that it is, in fact, difficult. He also talks about how is it not the readers fault that some poems are hard to understand. Knowing I’m not alone, and also not to blame, is reassuring. As Bernstein says, it is very important to not let a poem intimate the reader. When approaching a difficult poem in the future I’m going to go in with a positive mind, instead of stressing out like I would in the past. Poetry can be difficult, but it is not impossible.
One poem from the poetry packet that was difficult reading is “Geology of Water.” What made this poem difficult to read is the complex words, the “high syntactic, grammatical, or intellectual activity level,” used in the poem. I don’t have the biggest vocabulary or the smallest. It’s just some of the most common words or even the most difficult ones are not used in everyday life. After reading “The Difficult” poem I realized I’m not dumb because I don’t know some of the words used in the poem or I didn’t quiet understand the metaphors being used either. I can now go back without the idea of me being dumb in my head and first look up the words I don’t know and metaphors, then go back and read the poem as a whole so I could have a better understanding of the poem itself.
Bernstein’s excerpt made this idea of difficult poetry being not only useful, but essential, a much more relatable idea; even if we do not understand a single thing out of a poem we read, we still learn something from the experience other than “I hate this poem”, whether its to read poetry at a slower pace or look up a literary term to better understand its use in a particular poem.
After reading difficult poetry, it is clear that Bernstein is trying to convey that reading poems doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Just because you read a poem once through quickly and don’t understand it, doesn’t mean that you are stupid or that the poem is bad. The key is to know how to approach these difficult poems so that the reader can get the best feeling from them possible. Bernstein also conveys that the point of poetry isn’t to improve it over time but to successfully portray what is happening now in the time that we live in. By doing this, the reader can relate and understand poetry effectively. Personally, Bernstein related to me a lot. I have difficulty reading and understanding poems. To me, all poems are difficult, so I figured that maybe I am approaching poetry the wrong way. I did like that face that Bernstein seemed to believe that poets and new poems seem to be stuck in this place of unoriginality. That poets seemed to be struggling with creating something new. He felt as though poetry could be literally anything and written in any way the poet wants. This changed my views in that it made me feel like I am definitely capable of writing a poem.