BiblioFiles Episode #22: Understanding Poetry

We can hear you cringing. "Poetry? Really?" It's a dreaded subject for many of us. Why does it have to be so hard to understand? Does it really mean anything, anyway? And even if it does, is it worth the effort? We hope to make a case for why it is. And, by going line by line through one of our own favorite poems, we offer some tips for unlocking the secrets of poetry in your own reading. 

By the by, this is the final episode of our first season of BiblioFiles! Thank you to all who have stayed with us in 2016 as we've experimented and learned from our successes and failures. We've been so inspired by your interest in renewing and growing the Great Conversation. Your input has been a great help to us, and we're looking forward to an awesome 2017 season! If you haven't had a chance to offer your suggestions, we'd love to hear them via email at


Referenced Works:

"Spring and Fall: to a young child" by Gerard Manley Hopkins                

 Márgarét, áre you gríeving 

Over Goldengrove unleaving? 

Leáves like the things of man, you

With your fresh thoughts care for, can you? 

Ah! ás the heart grows older 

It will come to such sights colder 

By and by, nor spare a sigh 

Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie; 

And yet you wíll weep and know why. 

Now no matter, child, the name: 

Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same. 

Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed 

What heart heard of, ghost guessed: 

It ís the blight man was born for, 

It is Margaret you mourn for. 


–"A Work of Artifice" by Marge Piercy (1936-present)

–"On His Blindness" by John Milton (1608-1674)

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (1882-1956)

–George Herbert (1593-1633)

–Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

–Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

–Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

–John Donne (1572-1631)

–David Middleton (1949-present)

–Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

–Christian Wiman (1966-present)


We love hearing your questions and comments! You can contact us by emailing, or you can visit our website to find even more ways to participate in the conversation.