Quotation fun – Do poems in the midst of prose scare you?

Finally I’ve had a few moments to myself after the craziness of real life the last five days. So, what did I do today? Did I read a magazine? No. Did I watch Oprah? No. Instead, you guessed it: I read articles about poetry.

Today I discovered this interview of Ted Kooser in the South Bend Tribune. Now, I’ve listened to Ted before on the radio and read some other interviews so not much of what he said was new to me. Rather, something he said and has been saying in many different ways and forms over the years struck me again as being very insightful:

Ted Kooser wrote:
Prose is more hospitable toward readers. We pick up something in prose and are reading it before we notice we are. Poetry is rarely like that. When we see something set in type that looks like a poem, we have to consciously address ourselves to it.

I instinctively know he’s right about this. Of course, that doesn’t mean anything except I’ve got an opinion just like everyone else. However, I will admit a guilty secret that I think applies to this quote: I skip over poems when they are embedded in prose. In fact, I skip over them even when they appear at the head of a chapter in a novel or any other type of book.

For some reason, I like my poems to appear naked, on their own page. I dislike trying to read a poem and then somehow relate it to a passage of prose because I think poems should be respected in their own right, as a work of art. And they scare me when they appear in a mess of words, because then I must slow down and pay attention to the poem. It’s much easier to skip over it as I read the prose in my usual speed-reading fashion, like chomping down a whole bag of potato chips. The poems are more like very expensive chocolate: meant to be savored and appreciated slowly.

Do you skip the poems in books? Do you find poems more intimidating than prose?