Things Poets Say

I’ve revealed a few secrets so far. Some of my own and some from the other side of the poetic fence. Now, to reveal what other poets are saying—what is it that keeps people from enjoying a good sonnet or pantoum.

After careful analysis (via comments, interviews and stalking other poetry sites)  the number one reason other earthlings don’t read poetry is because—

It isn’t written for the common man

They just don’t get it. They feel that its poetic academic nose is glued to the ceiling and that just isn’t pretty.

And that complaint I understand. No one likes to feel belittled or inferior because they can’t comprehend something.  From an earlier post, I revealed that many times, I don’t understand poetry either. And there are times I don’t want to understand it because of it’s uppity language. I just wonder if some writers/poets write big pretending to be big themselves.

(By the way, who gave academics the monopoly on poetry?)

“Why don’t you write books people can read?”

Nora Joyce said this to her husband James. The same advise is for poets. Why don’t they write poems that people can read? Using simple language that normal people can understand. 

Emily Dickinson wrote:

 Emily Dickenson

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,  
 I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”


That, we can understand.

Instead, high school teachers dragged us kicking and screaming into The Canterbury Trails via Geoffrey Chaucer’s fourteenth-century world and we are told to analyze, dissect, and write a synopsis on Ye Olde English: 

“This frere bosteth that he knoweth helle,
And God it woot, that it is litel wonder;”

Ye poets of old used funny language. What’s funny, too,  is that Chaucer, a bit of an academic high-nose himself, is said to have written for the common English man, meaning those who could read and write.

Translated: the world of academia.

But, he wrote using common Middle English, which to us is more like a foreign language. For the newbie, the virgin poetry reader, it’s more like repeatedly stabbing ourselves in the eyes with pins every second we incomprehensibly stare at these stanza’s. It’s painful.

The sword has wounded the reader

Just one thrust and poetry is forever viewed as an enemy. Something to attack or to run from. Most of us run. I fear that teachers use that sword to attack their students. The unlovely teachers, that is—those who teach to teach and don’t teach from passion.

SonofWalt said something similar when he wrote that his 10th grade English teacher destroyed all possibility of enjoying poetry.

Ian Moone said:  “Sometimes I feel to blame for not liking something, if it was written yesterday or a 100 or more years ago. Maybe I should like it but I don’t.”

And who could blame Ian? Not me. Not anyone.

Once bitten . . . .

Begin gently

I like what N. Filbert had to say:

“I think it can be helpful for those who “don’t get/like/want” poetry to gently come to see that, at least the “poetic,” they probably watch for a lot…the shape of a fine fruit at the grocery, the sound or movement of breeze in leaves, the arrangement of hair of their beloved, what children do to sky when they laugh. Those sorts of things – the startling movement in the forms of the world that make us hesitate, take notice, receive or attend in ways we don’t always do? Then, with poetry, in a slow learn, we might cease listening for meaning or cadence even…but for something subtler and holistically tied to our lives.”

This is where the poetic begins

Filbert teaches us to teach attentiveness and awareness first. Here the “slow learn” begins. Here, even before words are formed, is where poetry is conceived.

Brilliant. (Teachers take note)

For us common men, (generic term) rest assured there are poets out there who speak to us. On different levels, with unique flair. Those we can understand and enjoy.

There’s more to it than that, of course. I’ll hit on more “Thing Poets Say” in the next round. For now, enjoy a bit of music from Merle Haggard, who has been called, Today’s Poet for the Common Man.

Merle Haggard—Poet of the Common Man

Merle Haggard: Always Wanting You (Lyrics)

8 thoughts on “Things Poets Say

  1. Heavenly comment – some poets don’t like …. i thought it was my secret, my edge of shame, threads from a blanket of not good enough, knowledgeable enough, harvard schooled type of thing. I love poetic phrasing. Some people call me a poet, but I really am a prose writer. I inhale words, and those which trot across the page in even sized font, saying a lot in one line, like choo choo trains with purpose, speak the most for this word gobbler. I love your blog. btw i love Billy Collins, and I also love Marge Piercy and Dorianne Laux, and Denise Levertov, and a gallon or two more, but my word bucket is now in spillage.

  2. Hi, Janice–

    I just tagged you in the Lucky 7 Meme Challenge! Go to to check it out. I hope you have time for this; it was passed on to me, and sometimes I’m hesitant to tag others because these things do take time. Anyway, I’d love to see a bit of your WIP.

  3. Thank you for continuing this discussion, J, and for including me. I love that this has gone on not just on your blog or mine, but apparently much more widely. It’s the kind of thing that will hopefully further the progress. The academic world should not have the monopoly on any form of art, and I think when that happens, it must be an indication that certain people wanted to create something special just for themselves, and not for others. That situation is one in which art dies.

Speak to me of thoughts unspoken.

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