Letters from Home
what happens when you read poetry emily dickinson quote

What happens when you read poetry

A list of things the might happen to you when you read poetry

  1. you finish quickly
  2. you don’t feel full
  3. you encounter nature
  4. odd feelings come up
  5. you go somewhere else, on a trip of the mind
  6. everyday objects reveal themselves
  7. language unravels and twists around
  8. you feel uncomfortable, but not unhappy about that
  9. you remember something — a memory percolates
  10. time slips its boundaries
  11. you taste it
  12. the word “poetry” sounds different to your brain
  13. fear bubbles up
  14. resistance arises and you can feel yourself pushing at you
  15. you recognize similes and metaphors everywhere
  16. there’s abandonment, and you wonder why
  17. the end comes too soon
  18. breathing becomes irregular
  19. you remember your mother saying how she didn’t feel as old as she was
  20. the shape of the lines make sense somehow
  21. you feel you are being chased
  22. a nightmare occurs again like a pop-up book
  23. you feel hungry but can’t say what for
  24. you remember your high school english teacher gushing about Elizabeth Bishop
  25. song lyrics sound different
  26. there’s a path up a mountain you went up alone once and you are thinking of it now
  27. you want to share the poem with a friend, but you are nervous he’ll think you’re weird
  28. cloud patterns and bird songs have shape shifted
  29. you find yourself staring into nothing, doing nothing
  30. there’s a certain heat you can’t explain
  31. love

What happens to you when you read poetry? Tell me in the comments!

Read more poetry by Emily Dickinson. Or for something more modern, listen to Amanda Gorman, the first youth poet laureate on Here & Now.