Poetry and Music


“If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.” Charles Darwin





On my way to a concert on a lovely Spring afternoon, I was delighted to see so many people reading in The Lincoln Center park.








There's another reader in the background too... ©readinginterrupted.com

There’s another reader in the background too… ©readinginterrupted.com


Do you read poetry and listen to music at least once a week as Darwin wished he had?



92 thoughts on “Poetry and Music

  1. Yes! And I’m reading poetry to my son every morning, to wake him up before I push him out of bed. He really likes it. This morning I read Frost’s Road Less Traveled to him and then asked him if it’s a good thing to take a path that fewer people take. His answer: “Of course, mom. There will be more berries to pick that way.” Spoken like a boy who’s been berry picking in Maine. 😀

    MRIs show that music and poetry light up the same parts of the brain. Telling, isn’t it?

    • What a fantastic way to wake up your son in the morning! You are helping him start the day in such a beautiful, thoughtful way (as his charming berry answer indicates, haha!).

  2. What a great quote; but oh how poignant! It is all too easy to let the weeks rush past without including time for the things that bring us the most joy. How wonderful that all the people in your photos were putting their time in the park to such good use!

  3. It is encouraging, though I wish I could see more young people reading. Doesn’t this argue for parks and open spaces away from the ever-intrusive screen? But there’s still nothing like a good book to pass the lunch hour and de-stress workday frustrations. And the answer to your question is yes, of course: more like once a day!

    • I was happy to see some young people reading in the park – as you point out, the open spaces do seem to encourage everyone to go out and explore other pursuits- good point!

      Poetry and music more than once a day- yes!

  4. How lovely and relaxing this post is Letizia! I listen to music every day, especially when I go out for my walks with my iPod. It’s when I get a lot of my ideas for writing. Helps me think. But I don’t listen to music when I do write. So far as reading poetry? No, but I should… I love the Darwin quote 🙂

    • How lovely to be inspired by the music you hear (and by your walks). Do you listen to any particular genre or all sorts? I can’t listen to music when I work either – it’s too difficult to concentrate.

      • Well, I do listen to all sorts as a rule but it depends on my writing mood. Sometimes I listen to heavy stuff (and I love the Foo Fighters!) other times I’ll listen to classic disco, haha! I have to be careful though, I feel like breaking out in some dance moves sometimes and I would look like a complete idiot in the middle of the park doing that 😉

        • Foo Fighters and classic disco – brilliant! Both are wonderful and I can completely identify with the irrepressible urge to dance in public (that happens to me in supermarkets when a good song comes on… it’s hard not to dance down the aisles!).

          • Haha! I do just the same Letizia, much to the huge embarrassment of my daughter but that just makes me want to do it all the more!!
            Have a great weekend 🙂

  5. I am going to try to think about this quote once a week.. I am afraid I don’t really read good poetry and listen, really listen, to good music every week!! That would be a great goal!
    Lovely pictures of people reading and of the orchestra!

    • It’s a great goal, isn’t it? I like what you say about ‘really listening’ – we all often listen to music, it’s all around us wherever we go (in supermarkets, etc.), but we need to make the time to really listen. On va le faire!

  6. Music every day. Poetry, alas, is as infrequent as oil changes (which is a wholly unpoetic simile). I need to get on top of my poetry reading. And car maintenance now that I think of it.

    • Oh, yes, I agree; it’s hard to read and listen to music at the same time! Some classical or jazz music in the background could work perhaps but it’s more to tune out other noise than to listen to it, right?

      • I can listen to music to tune out other sounds. I like to read when everything is quiet but, some music is good. I do love to read on the beach or in a garden with birds singing, it´s so relaxing.

  7. Hmm…I have music on almost all the time, but you’ve reminded me that I used to actually listen to it, whereas now I’ve let it become background. And poetry? Oh dear! Hardly ever, I fear. Inspired by your post, I shall dig out Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters which has been sitting lonely and half-read on a shelf for far too long…

    • I have a beautiful copy of Ted Hughes’ poetry that I want to dust off and revisit now too! I have music on often as well, but to really listen to it, well, that’s another question. In the car, dancing in the kitchen, but is that really listening?

  8. Lovely to see people holding books and not cell phones!

    I always listen to music, though I tend to duck from poetry. BUT, I have some blogging buds whose poetry I love. Thanks to them, I do read poetry at least once a week now!

  9. I was going to say almost the same thing as Carrie – I noticed that they were reading actual books and not Kindles! Refreshing for a pro-traditional book lover.

    I need to bring more poetry and music into my days. I miss them.

    • I love that you both noticed this! I always read actual books whenever I can so love this fact too (although I’m surprised I didn’t notice this when I was looking at the people reading, haha!).

  10. Love how you capture people doing something right (reading) instead of bemoaning our shortcomings. Well done, Letizia! BTW–I’ve never been a great poetry reader (Dr. Suess having always been my favorite). Any suggestions on “getting it” when you read?

    • Thanks, Liesa – it was such a charming sight to see everyone reading in the park on my way to the concert. I wish I had my camera with me (instead of my iPhone camera) so I could have zoomed in more to see what they were reading!

      Dr. Suess is a fine writer indeed! My advice for reading poetry… hmmm…. well, start by finding a poem or poet you like. I know this sounds simplistic, but sometimes people force themselves to read poetry they don’t understand or enjoy at all and that’s a bad place to start at first. And then just read one poem (reading aloud helps as poetry is often like song). And on a first reading, it’s ok if you don’t get every line – the general mood is fine at first. Try Mary Oliver’s poems, or Pablo Neruda’s love poems.

  11. It’s always nice to see people reading books. I love it in particular on the rare occasions you bump (quite literally) someone walking down the road who’s reading an open book – people like that still exist.

    Personally I read virtually every day but I have a blind spot with poetry. I just don’t ‘get’ it.

    • I’m not surprised to hear that you read everyday, Roy. All literature has elements of poetry so in a way you read poetry everyday, I suppose.

      I wish I could walk and read at the same time – it’s one of my dreams. Alas, I’m not capable of such coordination. I get too involved in the book and risk my life, like you, I love watching people who can do this.

  12. People love to read and outdoors is double-good. And you were accomplishing both of Darwin’s wishes. I’m not big on all his theories but he did know about life. Great photos, Letizia

    • There’s something sweet about seeing people read outside – there’s a timeless quality to it, as if everyone was on holiday for a moment, I suppose. Glad you liked the photos and thanks for the tweet, Dannie.

  13. I love the quote, Letizia! It’s so very true that we need to do this at least once a week. I used to read poetry to my children when they were young and now they’ve grown they can still remember the poems by heart! (particuarly Triantiwontigongolope by C J Dennis!) 😀

    • I just looked up “Triantiwontigongolope” because I wasn’t familiar with it – how charming! I love that you read poetry to your children and that they still remember them by heart – a beautiful gift you gave them!

    • I think that most people listen to music more than they read so I like that you are the opposite. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and hope you’re reading something interesting these days!

  14. I read poetry every single day- not just the new ones, the classics as well ( and I haven’t written one till date ). It is sort of … emancipating on so many levels. Come to think of it, I don’t know why but I have almost stopped reading books and that ‘reading space’ has been encroached upon by poetry 😉 Some of the writers might be turning in their graves 😛
    Never knew Darwin except for his theory, till date 🙂

    Fascinating how you capture reading , the way you do Letizia. Credit must go to your ever-watchful-eye. Eye of Sauron ( to quote Lord of the Rings, if I may )

    • How wonderful that you read poetry everyday, Tatsat! That is a fantastic routine to have established, even if it has, as you put it, encroached into your reading of novels and other books, haha!

  15. How intriguing, my eyes alighted on Rilke today hidden away at the back of the bookcase and I was in two minds but now my mind is made up. As for music, I do need better taste, 90’s cheese is on my laptop shuffle list way to much!

      • I only have one dance move and it gives me a headache, I did read The Conquest of Mexico in a club once…I got some odd looks for that one.

        • I knew we were kindred spirits – I once read Kafka on a Jamaican beach (and then proceeded to write a paper on it in the club house) and got strange looks (probably the same strange looks you got, haha!).

          • We should go on a world tour doing this sort of thing for money, everybody loves a hidden camera show when they are bored…we could read bungie jumping or sit in parks and laugh at serious books…it sounds like the best way to get paid.

            • We could have bookshop sponsorship as well and perhaps a guest author as well, Richard Dawkins or Stephen King or somebody could join us reading on a rollercoaster or some such, it’s a ratings winner for sure.

            • Haha! (love how we’re having two separate conversations at the same time on our respective blogs! Am off to the lake as it’s a bank holiday here… Enjoy the rest of your day!)

            • Real time blogging, that’s the way of life, who needs Skype or whatever the kids use these days. It is bank holiday here and Rilke calls (he’s having a cup of tea in the front room, he says hi). I will enjoy my day if you do as well, take it easy!

  16. I listen to music (including classical) every day. Poetry is a little more sporadic, but I recently discovered a blogger whose poetry I really like, so whenever she posts, I read. That’s probably once a week.

    Like you, I love seeing so many people reading books. Makes me feel like all is right with the world.

    • I love the idea that people are reading poetry more frequently because of blogs.

      I know exactly what you mean when you say seeing people read books makes you feel like all is right with the world….

  17. This gives me hope…people out there are reading! (And, already mentioned earlier, REAL books too!)

    It saddens me how many times I get into conversations with people about being a writer and they tell me they never read books—not on an e-reading device or in the flesh. They say they don’t have time. My answer is always the same…I make time, because stories are important.

    Love the clandestine photography, by the way. : )

    • I know, it’s so odd when people say they don’t have time to read (yet they have time to watch t.v.). I suppose when you’re passionate about something, you want others to feel that passion too.

      I felt a bit strange taking photos of the readers, haha! I tried to make them as anonymous as possible…

      • Agreed on the t.v. comment. Not to say that we don’t have a show or two we watch from time to time, but our focus is definitely on other activities.

        Tell me about it on taking pix of strangers! I’m just waiting for someone to contact me and say…why’s my face on your blog? Oopsy! : )

  18. Look at all of those readers – how great to see! I sometimes listen to music while I write, depending on my mood. Sometimes it’s silence that brings my poetry to life… What a creative post, Letizia!

    • It’s interesting how sound can sometimes be an inspiration and sometimes be a distraction. I suppose it depends on the sound and on what we’re working on. Sometimes silence can be a distraction too…

  19. 1. I would bring along Hemingway if it meant I had a chance for you to take my picture.

    2. I hardly read outside of work, but I do listen to National Public Radio on the way to and from work. I listen, really listen, and it feels like reading.

    3. On the way to soccer matches, give me and the girls something with a driving beat, like 70s funk or 80s grunge. When I need inspiration to create something beautiful (or at least readable), I cannot go wrong with Beethoven’s ninth symphony. It gives me something to aspire to.

    • I love what you say about listening to NPR and it feeling like reading. I listen to it in the car too and there’s that element of concentration that is akin to reading, it’s true!

      Beethoven, 70s funk, and 80s grunge – great taste!

    • Maybe every other week then perhaps? Isn’t it annoying when our lives get in the way of our reading and our listening, haha! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • No problem! I do feel that books and learning and music should occupy all of our time, almost always, because they’re so good! Writing too, I suppose!

  20. Well, I do not listen to music while reading at same time. To concentrate to both of them simultaneously is not for me. The only case to me is while on computer, then I can listen to some foreign radio station simultaneously just to learn the correct pronunciation of foreign language.

    When I was young I read a lot of book outside in the nature. On those days I read all Tarzan books for example. Generally speaking I do not listen to poems. There was a time in my life when I wrote them.

    • It’s nice to read outside. It’s funny but I think you are right, most people read more outside as children. I will pay more attention to that now.

      How lovely to know that you used to write poetry. Perhaps you will start writing again….

  21. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to music while reading; I’ve always thought it would distract me from reading! However, I always have something instrumental on while I’m writing. I will give music a shot next time I’m reading though and see how well that works for me. 🙂

    • I never listen to music while reading either. I think it’s best to keep them separate and enjoy their beauty on their own. thanks for stopping by, as always!

  22. Oh Letizia, how I love poetry, especially when I hear a voice read the words aloud. Poetry speaks to our soul in ways that cannot be fully understood. This week, I have been reading Maya Angelou. A great quote by Charles Darwin. I think that you will appreciate T.S. Eliot’s thoughts on poetry:

    “Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.” T. S. Eliot

    • What a great quotation from T.S. Eliot. He was right, poetry does help us become aware of unnamed feelings – helps us find a way of naming them in a way too.

      I’ve been rereading Maya Angelou this week too….

  23. I was just thinking the other day that I should read more poetry. It can fill our souls in a way that regular writing usually can’t. Music does that too. And seeing people out there reading and enjoying life is another kind of poetry and music. Happy summer reading!

    • It’s so lovely to hear from you again, Sheila! The blogosphere is not the same without you. It’s true that poetry affects the soul in a particular way that other kinds of writing cannot. Music is similar in a way (but different too)… it’s hard to find the right words to express how we’re moved by these art forms. Hope you’ve had a great Spring!

      • Thanks so much! I’ve missed you too. Everything’s just been too crazy lately but I’ll get back into the swing of things soon. Hope you’re getting lots of summer reading in!

  24. I listen to music daily just not live music. And I read poetry weekly. It definitely helps spark the imagination. 🙂

    • You and I have the same routine, listening to music daily and reading poetry weekly! I agree, it sparks the imagination and puts a kick in one’s step 🙂

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