September 2009

How to Talk About Poetry

Let's be honest. Reading poetry, in

the greater scheme of things, is just this side of engaging in an obscenity. Poetry is meant to be spoken or sung or chanted; it's meant to be heard, not to be engaged in as a quiet, sullen and solitary vice. Poems live when they are shared; they are meant to be spoken and heard and passed on and celebrated.

Anyone can read and enjoy and comment appreciatively and intelligently about poetry. You don't have to be some sort of creative writer, or a poet, or an artist, or sensitive, or anything much, beyond a thoughtful reader.

Queen Elizabeth I Poems

Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) is, perhaps, the most famous ruler England has ever known. But far fewer people realize that Elizabeth I was not only the patron of poets

like Raleigh, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Sidney, she wrote poems herself. She also wrote brilliant speeches, thoughtful letters and astonishingly eloquent translations from Latin, French and Italian. Her best known poem is "On Monsieur's Departure"; it's generally agreed that it was likely about either the end of marriage negotiations between Elizabeth I and The Duke of Anjou in 1582, or, possibly, the Earl of Essex, once her favorite but who was executed for treason in 1601.