Here's a really big tip about how to interpret or rather not interpret writing, whether poetry or prose. It's more show than tell:
This past weekend I went to a musical event where students of the Peabody Conservatory of Music were singing - what turned out to be very dissonant singing. This is (for me) excruciating to listen to (no offense to those that sing or like hearing it) as it was comprised of very mediocre poetry set to music by contemporary classical composers. And I use the term 'set to music' lightly, as the music itself was nice, and the voices were outstanding, but the words didn't go well with either really, and there was absolutely no melody or real beauty to any of it (hence the term 'dissonant'). It was more like the recitation of a poem using exaggerated intonation in a sing-song way. In such a case, the poems themselves better be good. They weren't.
I could have chalked it up to a learning experience if it hadn't been for the raping of an Emily Dickinson poem (the one 'real' poem in the bunch) near the end. Here's the poem in question:
Bind me—I still can sing—
Strikes true within—
Slay—and my Soul shall rise
Chanting to Paradise—
This, in and of itself, is an appropriate poem for a song. It doesn't need a great deal of dramatic interpretation. But here's what the young woman singing it did: she walked down the aisle with her hands in prayer, then, once she reached the stage, ran about pulling at her hair, crying, wailing, crouching and cowering in various places with hands crossed as if bound, as she distorted (and I do mean distorted) the words. This was the greatest transgression:
my man strikes me, strikes me, my man strikes me
Um, isn't it mandolin? And it's "strikes true within", it's not a person actually being struck. The poet in me reeled. Nauseated. Betrayed. This "performance" dragged on and on and on, with hair flying and tears and clasped hands and fearful looks over the shoulder. The worst part: no one seemed to be as shocked as I was, or even mind at all, prompting me to ask, What are they teaching in schools these days? Or is it me? Of course, why didn't I see it - Emily Dickinson was writing about domestic violence! All these years of studying and writing poetry and I've learned nothing. I'm so embarrassed. Not.
Word to the wise: don't forget to take into account the life and themes of the poet or the writer when interpreting a work. You can't take a well known writer's piece and make it whatever you like just to be different. Different doesn't always equal profound, or even interesting. The piece wasn't created in a vacuum; it came from a person with values, beliefs and, in the case of Emily Dickinson - a very limited (and very "hands off") experience of men!
I know some theorists would say you can forget the poet/writer but, really, you can't. I'm telling you no. You're not allowed. It's just plain bad form, bad judgment, and disrespectful. The writer is the vessel through which the writing is produced and, as such, flavors and colors the piece with their individual, original, authentic self. That should always be honored. It is always a part of he/she that he/she is sharing with the world and it's our privilege to experience it.
Poor Emily. She deserved better. I should have stood up and yelled, "Fraud!" Or maybe, "Freud"?