On Symbols and Searching for Them

When I was a middle/high school student, I had a flair for finding meanings in various literary constructions in the poems and short stories that we read. For most of these, I was spitballing because no one else in the class would raise their hand, but it was still fun to poke around at the possibilities. This stayed through college; I once jokingly told a friend that I could come up with all sorts of “deep” interpretations of a webcomic we both followed and did so. A joke cult became a comment on religion’s masquerade and a running gag of a purse was transformed to a comment on the menace of consumerism. It was a ton of fun and made up entirely on the spot.

I had the tables turned on me when one of my poems came up for critique in a poetry class. A classmate expounded on a complex interpretation related to art and the perils of taking its pursuit too far. It was incredibly insightful- and had nothing to do with anything I’d had in mind for the poem. Continue reading