First of all, there is this opening to an article from Britannica.com:
Poetry, literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.
Poetry is a vast subject, as old as history and older, present wherever religion is present, possibly—under some definitions—the primal and primary form of languages themselves.
Read the rest of Howard Nemerov's wonderful, must-read article at this link.
* * * * *
The reader became the book; and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,
Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom
The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.
The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.
And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself
Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.
"The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm" by Wallace Stevens from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. © Vintage, 2015.
* * * * *
I know (or, more accurately, suspect) the Wallace Stevens poem has much more "meaning" than I am about to ascribe to it, and perhaps a few dozen more readings would help me to more completely understand the "meaning," but I will nevertheless say now what it "means" to me after about a dozen readings:
My reading of literature, especially my reading of poetry as I get older and approach the universal endgame, allows me to understand more completely (and even look beyond) my limited time and space in life; and when I really -- I mean really -- read closely, carefully, and well, I somehow cross over a transcendental bridge to the sublime.
Now, I ask you a few questions:
What is poetry?
What does the Stevens poem mean by "The reader became the book"?
What does the Stevens poem "mean" to you?
What are your favorite poetry reading experiences?