Misinterpretation of Children’s Poetry
Poetry is meant to be interpreted in many different ways. This is what makes poetry so diverse when compare to other writings. The many interpretations of poetry is a good thing, but also a bad. Too much interpretation can destroy the true meaning of the poem. This can happen with all kinds of poetry, but it is more likely to happen with children’s poetry.
Jack Prelutsky is a famous children’s poet. Prelutsky was named the first Children's Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation in 2006. He spends much of his time presenting poetry to children, and sometimes even sings out his poetry. However this doesn’t mean his poetry is only intended for children. Prelutsky’s poetry does have meaning towards an older audience. His poetry has a wide range of audiences, and with all these ranges of audiences. There will be a wide range of interpretation of his poems. With so much different interpretations of the poem, the true meaning of the poem is mask behind the hundreds, and even thousands of other meanings we put in.
One of the most widely interpreted poems by Prelutsky is “Bleezer’s Ice Cream”. The poem is about a person name Ebenezer Bleezer, and this person owns an ice cream shop with 28 unique divine flavors. As a child, they will only understand the silliness off the poem. As they will compare to walking into an ice cream store with unique flavors, but an adult will interpret this much more differently. In the first stanza the name Ebenezer as interpreted by an adult would mean the helping stone. In the book of Samuel Ebenezer meant, thus far the lord has help me, but most commonly referred to as the helping stone. As in the fifth line of the first stanza “28 divine creations” is well connected to the biblical meaning of Ebenezer. While an adult would call say the twenty eight divine creations are human beings, on the other hand children would consider these creations as unique flavors of ice cream. The two meanings are so widely interpreted it destroys the meaning of the poem.
If the meaning of the poem is gone, then there is no valid meaning to the poem. If this is so the poem would no longer be consider a poem, but rather words on paper. Truth is there is meaning, and that meaning comes from the author. The modern critic has faithfully and closely examined the text to its independent meaning instead of its supposed significance to the author’s life (2). The person who wrote the poem gave it its meaning, and those who interpret it cannot give the poem meaning, because they are not the author of the poem. Many interpreters use logic or history, such as the history of the author to draw its meaning. However this does not always mean the meaning of the poem is right. The interpreters have no way of knowing what the author is feeling as he writes the poem, and also how he feels when revising it. Readers maybe believe they have the right meaning of the poem, but in fact this also causes false interpretations and leads to false meanings of the poem.
With so much false interpretations of poetry we almost mistrust any kind of meaning towards a poem. All meanings of the poem are then seen as people’s opinions, even the authors own meaning. In “Plato’s Banishment of Poetry” by Morriss Henry Partee, an assistant professor at University of California, stated “Plato’s consistent mistrust of art in his explicit consideration of art must take his tacit enjoyment and his use of poetry” (209). Therefore we mistrust poetry because we know poetry is a kind of art. Knowing this, we then get the notion that art is interpreted in different ways. This leads to why we misinterpret poetry the way we do.
The opinions of these people which led to misinterpretation of the poem, are their feelings towards the type of poetry. Joan Peskin of University of Toronto said “Taken to an extreme, an assumption that poetry reading is personal and natural would blur...
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Bradley, A.C.. "Poetry for Poetr 'ys Sake." http://www.munseys.com. UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD LONDON, 1901. Web. 24 Apr 2012. <http://www.munseys.com/diskfive/posa.pdf
Hirsch, E.D. Jr. Validity In Interpretation. Michigan: BookCrafters Inc., 1967. 1-275. Print.
Partee, Morriss Henry . "Plato 's Banishment of Poetry." Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 29.2 (1970): 209-222 . Print
Peskin, Joan. "Constructing Meaning When Reading Poetry: An Expert-Novice Study." Cognition and Instruction. 16.3 (1998): 235-263 . Print.
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