Reading for Meaning

Reading for Meaning

I had a class in University

In which we were instructed

On how to analyze poetry

The teacher had us 

Read a poem out loud

The author used the word


When we finished

He asked us a question

“Do you know what a bivouac is?”

No one did

He then asked another question

“How can you analyze a poem when you don’t know what a word means?”

We argued that we could make an educated guess

Read the rest of the poem and extrapolate the meaning

But he answered 

The most obvious and easiest thing to do 

Is to open up a dictionary

So we did

“A bivouac is a kind of improvised camp site, or shelter that is temporary in nature, used especially by soldiers…”

Suddenly knowing this one word 

Changed the entire meaning of the poem

It moved from being a pastoral elegy

To a war memorial

I learned a lot in that class

But most importantly 

That reading isn’t about words

It’s about understanding

What they are designed to represent

And that’s why I’ll never use a word

If I don’t know what it means

Cause even if no one else understands

At least I’ll know myself

Words: ©2022LCR

Image: CCO 


  1. Fortunately for me, I know exactly what a bivouac is! Love this wise write ....

    1. A very wise teacher. And sometimes the simplest answers are the best.


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