Time for Six

It’s time to revisit our Earthling vs. Weird Poet chat.

Let’s review the reasons “normal earthlings” don’t read poetry:

1. They don’t understand it.
2. It doesn’t make sense.
3. They are “too stupid” to understand it. (Not my words.)
4. And it’s boring.
5. Poetry takes time—they’re short, but require contemplation.
6. Their 10th grade English teacher destroyed all possibility of enjoying poetry.
7. Lots of poetry seems like “nose-in-the-air-difficult-philosophical-clap-trap.”
8. Nobody likes to be looked down on.

Today I’m going to harken back to number six on our list why normal earthlings don’t read poetry.

Who has time for poetry?                    

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“Poetry takes time – they’re short, but require contemplation – and nobody has time.” says ericmwebb.

Now, Eric is a student of poetry. According to his blog, he’s in his second year of a Poetry MFA at Old Dominion. That’s pretty classy.

And a bold statement—nobody has time.                                                     

Yet, last I heard, we all have the same amount of time in a day. For most of us our time is used up by the responsible stuff of life—work, sleeping, snacking, driving, cooking, hanging up on telemarketers, attempts at pretending to exercise, personal hygiene, kid stuff—for the mom’s who have endured the blessedly agonizing throes of childbirth and for the dads who made that a reality.

The rest of the hours or minutes we devote to what we want to do. Mostly, that involves not thinking, unless you are a fan of Sudoku. Usually most of us are just tired.

Perhaps, Eric has it right. Who in their right mind would choose to read a poem and ponder it when we can passively be entertained by what my mother used to call the “The idiot box?”

Me, for one.

I like my idiot box. I like my “RAM, CPU, GPU, USB” box, too.

How much time do I spend with these two boxes?

A LOT. A REAL LOT.

Am I an idiot then? (Say it isn’t so, Mom.)

Yet, in my teensy allotted time here on earth, I take the time to read a poem or thirty/day. My daughter sews or crafts, another daughter collects recipes and runs, my son plays video games, my husband . . . oh yeah, he’s an idiot box guy. 

We’re given time to use as we wish.

It’s all about choice. Most choose something other than savoring a passionate delectable poem.

I’ll get back to the Contemplate word in the next post.

Who wants to think?                    1022921_79425194

But, we need to add a ninth one that goes with number six.

In response to this conversation, Zongrik.com wrote that “Poetry was ruined for the masses when the masses stopped wanting to think.” (She’s an an aerospace engineer. I take what she says very seriously.)

This is  a really loaded statement. I don’t use really a lot. But, this is really loaded. Let’s turn it around. The masses stopped wanting to think therefore poetry is ruined.

In my initial post on this topic, I mentioned that my husband doesn’t read poetry. One reason he gave was that he decided he was too stupid to understand it. Hear the cynicism in that statement? It’s unsettling. This is not a stupid man. He can add numbers faster than a calculator.

There’s a silly sign hanging around Facebook that reads: “How I see Math word problems: If you have four pencils and I have seven apples, how many pancakes will fit on the roof? My answer: Purple, because aliens don’t wear hats.” I am not ashamed to confess that for me math is little like the sludge in the bottom of a hot water tank. You could stir it up inside my brain and it will still just be sludge.

I don’t want to think about math. But, because our world revolves around order, I have to. At least the basics. But, I have a calculator for that sort of thing. I don’t have to think too much.

And the Mister, because he’s a married man, must venture into the world of poetry only two times a year—my birthday and Mother’s Day. But he just needs to take a trip to Walgreen’s, close his eyes in the card aisle and pick one. Anyone. I once got one that said, “Belated Sympathy.” I appreciated his sentiments. Hallmark did the work for him. He doesn’t have to think.

Who helped us not to think?

Technology? Poets who sell their poems to card companies? Has our not thinking ruined poetry for us? Or was poetry ruined for the masses?

Or did culture ruin poetry for the masses?  Or . . . 
is there just too much competition for our thinking time?

Poets are weird and other observations from normal earthlings

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GASP!

Poets are weird?

And this coming from a college-aged artist of all people. What is she thinking? That we all have round hippy glasses and long beards? That we sit in the lotus position and eat beetles? Heck, I don’t even have a tattoo.

“This is why you won’t read poetry?” I asked. “Because you think poets are weird?”

“They are often too weird.”

Now that hurt.

“And poetry has different boundaries than other things like math. Anyone can write a poem and call themselves a poet.”

“Yeah . . . they could,” I said stroking my beard.

“And people don’t read it because it’s overdone. There’s too much poetry in the world. Teachers make kids write it. They don’t make kids write novels, they make them write poetry and then decipher other’s poems to find the deep meaning. Nobody likes doing that.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that a few times.”

So who or what is the culprit?

Someone or something ruined poetry for the masses. Now, I’m not real bright but I keep seeing a poetic finger pointing at teachers.

So, I cornered one for some answers and got lucky. I found one that’s both an art teacher and an English teacher.

“Hmmmm.” Even she had to think about it. “Why people hate poetry. I don’t know. Could it be because it makes one think? Is it because it reminds them of English class? Or, could it be because old poetry is so hard to read sometimes that people just don’t want to think?”

Isn’t it just like a teacher to answer a question with a trio of questions? Did I have to answer her questions now in order to receive her direct answer? I chomped a few beetles and pondered this then just decided to turn her questions into declarative sentences. No surprise that her answer translated into the same old same old. (Now this is getting boring.)

It was time to ask someone from the younger generation who might have a different perspective—a nerdy junior higher. He said, “Because the simple ones are boring and the complicated ones are too hard to interpret.” Now we are getting somewhere. Someone who can at least differentiate between genres. Kind of.

I needed another non-poet male opinion.

“There are two kinds of poetry,” This twenty-something male said without hesitating.“The kind you can’t understand and you gotta read it more than twice to understand it. This is why women don’t like it. Or it’s corny if you can understand it. Like roses are red violets are blue . . . and this is why men don’t like it.”

Whoa, slow down there, buddy. “Poetry is for girls,” he said. “That’s why men don’t like it.”

Men don’t like it? Really? I readjusted my lotus legs.

Argh.

Am I sensing a misogynist here? I needed some lavender essential oils. ASAP. Who was this guy? I checked his facebook status. It says freelance writer. I think he might be teasing.

I think.

Poetry: gender specific?

But, he had me wondering. Is that the general consensus? That poetry is for girls? That females can’t understand it?

If I took what he said at face value-poetry is for girls and girls can’t understand it . . . let’s see from my philosophy classes If A (poetry is for girls) and B (girls can’t understand it) then we could conclude C: poetry can’t exist. I’m smelling a fallacy here.

I took a few cleansing breaths realizing I needed to ask someone with maturity and wisdom. Someone . . . just a teensy bit older than me.

“I like poetry,” she said. “My husband doesn’t.” Then in a dreamy voice, “I had a boyfriend who used to write me poetry.” Ah, I felt that longing. My pretzel knees were doing their job. I was sensing so deeply, so deeply I felt compelled to scribble a poem about lost love—maybe a cinquain.

“But, my guess is that poetry makes men out to be sissies. They’re afraid to like it.” She didn’t say that’s what she thought, but it was what she thought men thought.

Huh?  Again with the gender issue. In two separate generations, two separate genders. Where did this idea come from? This has never been a part of my thinking. But, it adds a mess to the question–why people don’t like poetry.

I think I’ll chew on this a while. (but first spit out the beetles.)

Have you heard this before? And what do you think about the statement that poets are weird? Next time I’ll explore what other poets have been saying. If you have any additional thoughts, please share them.

Secrets from a Poet

Last week my husband revealed to me why he doesn’t read or like poetry.

1. He doesn’t understand it.

2. It doesn’t make sense.

3. He’s too stupid to understand it. (he said it, not me.)

1. It’s boring.

A few commenters added their own thoughts:

1. Poetry takes time—they’re short, but require contemplation—and nobody has time. (thanks to emrw)

2. Their 10th grade English teacher destroyed all possibility of enjoying poetry.

3. Lots of poetry seems like “nose-in-the-air-difficult-philosophical-clap-trap.”

4. Nobody likes to be looked down on.

(Thank you  sonofwalt for these final three.

By the way, sonofwalt says of number six, “This is one of my reasons for attempting to bring people back to it (poetry) afresh, when they can be encouraged to find something pleasurable about the whole experience. I cannot recall who said this, but I like the idea, ‘A poet’s purpose is to help people enjoy their everyday lives.’”

I agree. If poetry does not help people, what good is it?

Getting back to the above observations, I would like to take them on one-by-one to try to demystify the whole poetry experience or realign the misconstrued ideas of poetry and poets.

But, first, I want to reveal a few secrets of my own and these might stun the normal earthlings.

As a poet, I can completely relate to every single one of these.

My first secret:

I hate poetry, too.

Well, some of it.

I hate goobery poetry. (insert your own definition.) I hate rainbow poems unless they’re for kids or all in fun. I hate bubble bath poetry. I hate reading a poem and feeling like I need to scrape the sentiment off with a spatula.

It took me the longest time to figure out why. I think it’s because some poems just don’t ring true. A love poem can be beautiful but it must sound sincere and authentic. Not contrived.

A lamenting poem can also be beautiful. But, it too must be sincere and not feel contrived or forced.

I hate feeling like I’m being preached to. Even though I profess to be a Christian, I don’t want to read poems that pounds a fist at me. I can go to church for some preaching. But, not all preachy poems are religious. Some are political or cultural. Show me some vulnerability, not piousness. I don’t like poems that bash people, unless it is metaphor for something evil.

I hate hate poetry.

I hate ambling poems. Most times simple is best. Yet, I have been guilty of the ambling poem.

My second secret:

I don’t sit around reading poetry all day. I do read a lot of poetry, but I don’t always enjoy it. When I connect with a poem, I feel a release. So, I wade through the ones that for me, this day, do not resonate with me, and I look for that gem pours into my soul.

I know I’ve found one when I hear an audible gasp and realize it’s me.

My third secret:

I don’t always get it either. Sometimes I’ll read a poem four or five times and just think to myself, I’m either really stupid or this doesn’t say anything.

And sometimes it’s both. But, sometimes, it’s because of where I am at in my life vs. where the poet is at in his/her life.

~ ~ ~

I hope by revealing my secrets, showing a bit of weakness, you can see that poets are real humans. Real earthlings. Maybe not normal, but that is worthy of debate, too.

So, tell me, writer/poet/ reader–what secrets do you harbor that you could share with the non-poet that might help to build a bridge with them?

I’ll list them and link back to you.