I had a really cool opportunity Wednesday night to attend a lecture by poet Dana Gioia on why literature matters. I really didn't want to go because it if required for a class for English majors that I have to take even though I'm not an English major. However, this lecture was pretty interesting and entertaining at times. I didn't take notes on the lecture, so my thoughts will be a bit scrambled, but I had to share them with you!
Gioia's main point on why literature matters is because it influences your own life. Your life is a story you are writing every day. Literature can be a part of that story. At the end of the Lecture, Gioia answered questions from the audience. One asked what books especially influenced him at certain points of his life. This hit me right on, because I have a handful of books I will always treasure because of the role they played in my own story.
Another question he asked was how he thinks people should interpret poetry. Can the reader get something different out of the poem than the poet intended them to? Gioia says absolutely! He compared poetry to a room. You can get in the room by the front door, a window, the back door...whatever. When you enter the room, it is only partially furnished. You have to furnish the rest yourself.
It was interesting to hear the background story behind a poem before he even read it aloud. Although some people in my class thought that took something away from the poem, I really liked it. I also liked how Gioia read some serious poems but also some hilarious ones, "Alley Cat Love Song" in particular. Here's the first part:
Come into the garden, Fred,
For the neighborhood tabby is gone.
Come into the garden, Fred.
I have nothing but my flea collar on,
And the scent of catnip has gone to my head.
I'll wait by the screen door till dawn.