I can relate to Plato’s frustration of oral communication turned into written word. As Jill Walker Rettberg points out in chapter two of her book Blogging, Plato expressed his disdain for writing because of its lack of ability to respond. Basically, if you have a question about the communication, you cannot ask the text a question and get an answer.
I empathize with this lack of communication between a reader and the written word when it comes to the study of poetry. Honestly, I have never been a big fan of poetry – no offense to all those poets out there, I have mad respect for you. I just never really could understand what the author was going for. With its fragmented, symbolic style, poetry goes right over my head.
However, when I am able to have the poetry explained, I seem to get what is going on. Take for example Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. I read this poem last night for my American Literature class. I did not understand at all what the meaning of the poem was. I just simply thought, “it has nice rhythm and rhymes well.”
Rettberg goes on to explain that blogs are less like an unresponsive piece of literature, but instead are an interactive medium where readers can indeed ask the author questions. It would be nice if Robert Frost had his own blog, and I could ask just what exactly he meant by “And miles to go before I sleep.”
In class today, my Am Lit professor explained in detail what the possible meaning behind Frost’s poem might be. She doesn’t know for sure what the author was saying, as she is not the author. In a way, it was like my professor was “commenting” on the poem, as though it were a blog post.
My professor’s comments on the poem, led me to make my own conclusions about it. Therefore, I now have something I can say about the poem, other than it rhymes. This is analogous to blog culture – the author writes a post, then readers comment on it, giving other readers insight to the post, and giving them the opportunity to make their own conclusions about it – then the cycle repeats.
And now that I am able to make my own interpretation of Frost’s poem, I am impressed to find that it speaks volumes to me. I now understand the narrator in Frost’s poem. Something bad has happened to him (“the darkest evening of the year”), and instead of going about his daily tasks (“But I have promises to keep”), he rather escape into the woods and watch the snow fall. But his horse is the reminder that he must go on with his life despite what has happened. His understanding of this comes when he says “And miles to go before I sleep.” In other words, he has many years ahead of him where he will be required to fulfill his obligations rather than to escape from the pain that ails him.