The common thought that some people seem to have about poetry is that it must consist of rhyming, a lot of articulate words, and/or they are really hard to follow. However, Ishmael Reed's poem, "Beware: Do Not Read This Poem," is not your typical piece of literature. Reading the beginning felt the same as watching a horror movie, the first three stanza's are so vivid and descriptive, telling the story of an extremely self absorbed woman who locked herself in her house and filled it with mirrors so that she could look at herself 24/7. Then, with a very abrupt transition, villagers' broke into her home; however, she ends up getting away by disappearing into one of her mirrors. From then on, anyone who bought the house "lost a loved one to the old woman in the mirror" (Reed). The fourth stanza, however, starts to go in a completely different direction. The speaker forgets all about the old woman and moves onto talking about the poem itself. Thus leading to the conclusion that this poem is actually a huge metaphor for the way poetry acts on its readers. .
In the beginning, the mirror was the metaphor for poetry in the sense that it is and should be reflective, and the woman was the metaphor for the readers of poetry. When the old woman fills her entire house with mirrors, she starts to lose the concept of reality, which could imply that poetry should mimic real life situations. Poetry shouldn't be some sort of fantasy world; the purpose is for its readers to be able to relate to the underlying meaning, much like music. The thing that makes a great artist, similar to what makes a great poet is when the lyricist is able to get a majority of his or her audience to connect with what they are talking about. The speaker warns it's readers that, "the hunger of this poem is legendary it has taken on many victims back off from this poem" (Reed). The poem is being personified as some sort of vicious creature, giving a warning that it takes on many victims.