And I say this as someone who loves poetry, who writes poetry, and who believes that poetry is a song without music that should be as easy or as difficult as listening to your favourite song. And just like your favourite song, it can mean a million different things to a million different people - it can make you happy just as it makes someone else sad, it can have complicated meanings for you just as someone else simply likes the tune. You don't always need to 'understand it' on some deep level - poetry can speak to you by the way the words sound when spoken aloud, or one sentence that strikes you as just perfect, or just a beautiful conglomeration of syllables and assonance that simply makes you happy. As Archibald McLeish famously wrote in Ars Poetica - "A poem should not mean, but be"!
And so, for the 100th anniversary of its writing, here is one of my favourite poems - copied from another website, because it's far too long to transcribe from the little brown book I've written all of my favourite poems into: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot. I read this poem when I was very young, and loved it without understanding much of it. When I was 15 I was lucky enough to have a substitute English teacher in school who spent his three weeks with us focusing on his favourite poem, this one, and opening my eyes to what it COULD mean. I'll never claim to fully 'understand' it...but noone ever should, about any poem, I think. Because I agree with McLeish...I'm happy enough to let this poem simply 'be'.
(The Italian excerpt at the top is from Dante's Inferno (The Divine Comedy), where Dante encounters Guido, and translates as: "If I thought that my reply were given to anyone who might return to the world, this flame would stand forever still; but since never from this deep place has anyone returned alive, if what I hear is true, without fear of infamy I answer thee.")
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock