Skimming Poems

Apr 12, 2023 - 1 minute read

Comment I ended up not posting on a thread on another platform about poetry and whether poems should be skimmable:

Is there any other way to read a Frank O’Hara poem, for instance, than skimming it? I often think multiple skims of his work render more meaning than the pinned down aspect of a close read. The pace and energy of the poem is as much a part of understanding it, much like Slow, Slow, Fresh Fount by Johnson intentionally slows the reader down.

If a poem has a particular music or tempo then, while close reading might still yield some surprises, multiple passes might yield more in the same way we might listen to a difficult piece of music a few times over rather than playing it at a slower tempo or repeating the same segment again and again or eyeballing the sheet music. Though, again, if that’s what you want to do then have at it.