Category Archives: Meaning of a Poem

What a poem means to me, to you, and when!

Most recently the “something to read while waiting” for me, has been the monthly issue of Poetry. Carolyn Forché’s article “Reading the Living Archives: The Witness of Literary Art,” particularly the Q & A, in May was most insightful and stimulating. Her exploration of  “ . . . we can’t know what the poem means because we can’t know what it will mean later” led me to attempt articulation of the meaning of my own poems. The following is the best I can come up with at the moment:

As a poet, I can only know the meaning of a poem at the time I write it. The next day, it may mean something different; and the next day, different still. Likewise, a poem’s meaning to a reader when he or she first reads it might change each time it is read. Meanings may deepen or dissipate, or simply change. Also, each reader will read into a poem his or her own meaning.

As a poet, my responsibility is to communicate as clearly as possible with the imprecise language that is available to me, so that the essence of a poem’s initial meaning may carry forward, regardless of when or who reads it.