Close Reading

poetry shelf


Until a year ago

I had either never heard

Or at least noticed the phrase

“Close Reading”

Or if I did, I didn’t understand


Which is not to say I understand

Anything more than I did then


When the professor, a kindly man

Who patiently chaired











Giving each panelist a word or a phrase

To look at intently

For intent

For the way the wine

Set on the back of the palette

Does this phrase

Have woody aftertones

Is there a hint of raspberry?


And as an aside

Do raspberries cut your tongue, and if not

Why are they ‘rasp’ berries?

rasp is a tool used for shaping wood or other material’

(apparently aftertone is not a word, except it has to be, because I can write it, spell it correctly, and you can understand EXACTLY what I mean!)


But this is not a poem about aftertones, or raspberries

But if I tell you what I mean

Who will ever want to do a close reading


this Poem?


But when dear Prof Al

Spoke of close readings,

even as they were sitting there

in the most sacred

Kelly Writers House

And giving us a perfect

Or near perfect example,

I imagined myself

about ten years old

Sitting at the antique sloping desks with storage bins under a lift up top

that the private Christian school I attended must have gotten for nearly nothing,

sitting there,

leaned in

on a book

of early American romantic poetry,

magnifying glass in hand,

looking at every letter,

at the curlicues of the font,

for clues.


Clues to what?

No one knows until they look.


At fifty-five

I knew that was not the way

to do a close reading

I still don’t know how.


But I am still looking

for clues


(dedicated to the mind opening experience of Professor Al Filreis’ Modern Poetry class at University of Pennsylvania on Coursera)


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