Sunday, August 17, 2014

on interpretation

I know I usually save these for the end, but I'm starting with a ramblings...

A side note:  When I was in high school (and grade school, too, I suppose), I was quiet...shy...preferred sitting toward the back of the class where I might go unnoticed...hoped for others to ask my question and if they didn't...well, lucky for me the usually did.  Anyway, I was not really one for raising my hand.  However, there are two incidents in which I can remember quite clearly doing just that.  The first time was as a freshman in Algebra 1.  The teacher put a problem on the board involving binomial multiplication and asked the class to try to figure out the answer.  After about a half dozen incorrect responses (exactly what the teacher was hoping for), I raised my hand and appropriately multiplied the two binomials.  I recall him not quite expecting this (and why would he from a former basic skills student), but lucky for me I shared study hall with a friend who was in a different class with a different teacher whom she insisted did not teach. So in order to help her, I looked at the examples and taught her things I had yet to learn.  I suppose, in hindsight, that was the beginning of my future career.

The second time I raised my hand was junior year English class.  I am not sure what on earth possessed me to do such a thing (and in English to boot).  We were in a short story unit and were discussing a recent story when the teacher inquired about why the class seemed to have different meanings for the story.  After a few moments of no answers, I unwittingly became the victim of another teacher expecting the wrong answer.  "Interpretation."  I've blocked out most of the memory after that; I'm sure I elaborated on my answer either of my own accord or because I was asked to.  Either way, I was quickly informed that I was wrong...basically there was no such thing as different meanings, but only the meaning the author intended on.  For someone who never raised a hand, who feared being noticed, this was crushing.  Not only that, but I felt (and still do to the core of me) that he was wrong.  I get that there is an intended meaning to every story, but I also believe (especially as a writer) that you have to be open to the fact that everyone brings with them their own experiences and those experiences can make them see things from an unexpected angle.

So why do I bring all this up?

Inspiration for this piece: Well, there were several things at play this past week that had me revisiting this idea of interpretation....

One, my last post did not at all come across the way it was intended.  And while this is not the first time a piece was altered through another's eyes, it was far from the truth I was caught off guard.  Most of the time, I can easily see the way something might sound different, but in this particular piece (while rationally I can understand the different insight) I have a hard time hearing it any other way but how I intended.  Part of me wishes I could hear someone else read it aloud so I might better grasp what they see and maybe even so that I might adjust with spacing, breaks and other word/line adjustments to better relay its true meaning.

The second thing that occurred with a day or so of my last post involved a poem written by another poet.  While reading the comments, I felt a disconnect among the comments which was driven home by the last one I read; it turned the piece completely upside down and upon rereading, I could hear the other (true) meaning of the poem.

The last thing to fall in place was a post at dVerse Poets Pub which had the community exploring the hidden beat in their poetry...the rhythm to which they their words sounded in their own head. It didn't technically speak to the idea of interpretation, but still for me, I felt the connection in this idea....  It was all of these things which lead to the piece below.

Tenor (of Interpretation) 

Meaning beats in my words,
a rhythm only I can truly understand
when paper & pencil is my voice;

still I allow them to rage forth,
where eyes instead of ears
awaken fresh & new tempos;

and I'm torn
between wishing my words to beat true
dispelling the notion
           the only story
           is the one written
           not the one read.


Victoria said...

I love this post...all of it. I so agree with you that the English teacher was off target. When I write a poem I know each will view it from their own perspective, based on their own experience.

Grace said...

I was a shy one too and rarely raised my hand during grade school and high school ~ Once our words are on the page, it is subject to different interpretation ~

I like that you allow your words to rage forth & there's always some more words underneath I bet ~ Have a good week ~

Claudia said...

i too think that everything is subject to interpretation... you can take one poem, let it read by ten people and each of them will point out something different and read it in a different way - and esp. poems are often written in a way that they invite or at least leave lots of space for the reader's interpretation which i find one of the cool things about poetry..

Jeff said...

Great poem, and great thoughts. Sorry you had to suffer through that--what could be worse than a literature teacher with NO knowledge of literary theory?!

Most writers worthy of the name purposely write with layers of meaning, and would be offended (or at least discouraged) if some narrow-minded buffoon insisted there was only one meaning.

But anyway . . . good poem. And I know EXACTLY what you mean!

Brian Miller said...

i think that one thing we as writers have to come to terms with is that when we release a poem or a story, it is no longer ours...or just becomes owned by all those that read it...and we each will read it differently...and different parts will speak to different points of our lives....

Björn Rudberg said...

I love this post.. first of all, I was shy too .. never raising my hand, and barely answering even if asked. What I love with blogging compared to a publishing is that I would lack the interaction. If I want my message clear, I have to speak clearly.. On the other hand if I wan't to (and I like that myself) to leave certain aspects of a story open I love to see how it evolves when other read it and comment, in the end it might be something other than I intended, but to to me the story is always created by the reader.. the writer is there to saw the seeds, but the story grows when it is read...

If you compare to painted art, your teachers statement would lunacy, as any art-critic would say.

Thank you for this piece..and thank you for all your visits to my blog.