When Writing Poetry Scares the Bejeebers out of us

This is Part Three of a series to understanding and overcoming our fear and/or hatred of poetry written for Wordsmith Studio

The summary:

1. Poetry is all about vulnerability. And vulnerability is a bit like sticking your tongue on a frozen light pole. Ripping the poem out of your gut will hurt. Most of us don’t run straight into pain. We avoid pain. We learn quickly not to stick our fingers in the flames or our head into a vice.

Twice.

Be advised: there’s an Advil for that and it rhymes with “run.”

2. Some people think poetry is all about giving their hearts away and without a heart, they’d be unrecognizable. Deflated, humbled, meek, mild, and a lot of weird.  But, what most people don’t know is that list is a fallacy invented by a copywriter in Tulsa.

Most poets are not mousy mild and our hearts are too big for that gaunt deflated look.

3. To write is to reveal. Whether it’s a modest sweetheart neckline or a plunging one, we expose our splotches and freckles and occasional prickly warts within our poem’s phrasing and verses.

Spotlighting our uglies is scarier than barrel-rolling over Niagara Falls.

3. Some people won’t go near a poem because they have a fear of poets—that strange, deranged breed of abbey normal humans. I guess those of us wearing the Poet name tag need to work on that. Maybe we could stop wearing plaids with polka dots and comb our hair once in a while.

To enlighten the metrophobe

I want to (gulp) share something with you. For me, the writing part feels good.

On a good day.

It’s the parading it in public that scares me.

On every day.

I  fear poetry, too, and, at times, I hate it. It’s like the ugly loveable tic-ridden stray tom cat that keeps showing up at my door to be fed but when I mercifully open the door, he hisses at me.

Love/hate/fear all yarned together.

Just like you might feel about our said topic of poety.

But . . . there’s a book for that. 

o For men: Poems for Men who Absolutely Hate Poetry

o For women: Tiny Poems for Women Who Think they Hate Poetry

o For kids: Best Poetry for Kids Who Hate Poetry

o And in general : Poetry without Fear

Today’s steps:

o Search for one of these books at your local library. (Don’t forget about inter-library loan. I use that ALL the time.)

o Choose a time of the day when you feel courageous. For me, that’s just after a nice chocolate sandwich topped with jamocha almond granola. Cuddle under you childhood blankey, the one with the puckered ribbon and frayed corners. Open the cover slowly, take a break if you must, then flip to the first poem.

The first tiny poem.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Read one. Then maybe another. And another.

In with the good air. Out with that skulking, belittling, critical voice in your head that says you’re in enemy territory.

o Then, you try one. One tiny poem. Scratch it on your napkin. No one has to read it. It really doesn’t have to rhyme. You don’t even need complete sentences. Just one thought.

After the first five or so, I’ll bet that your bejeebers  will drop to the floor and slither under the patio door.

Don’t worry.

Bejeebers are kind of like tonsils.

Just keep writing.

***

Today’s bonus read: Follow the bouncing blog to Kiril Kundurazieff”s Mad Macedonian to read about his adventure into poetry.

Help for your Poetic Fears

In a previous post, we ID’d our quavering metrophobes—our dear friends who fear (or hate) a nice meaty Sestina or a Didactic Cinquain or flighty tercet of Sevenlings.

I hope we, as poets, have developed a tinge of empathy for our peers. For we, too, if we are completely honest, have walked a mile or two in their bunny slippers.

Or penny loafers.

Or iambic stilettos.

And for those metrophobes who have bravely ventured thus far into the wily world of poetry, be reassured you are not alone in your fear and apprehension. A quick Google search shows that poetry is the most hated and feared of all the writing arts.

Try googling fiction fear or screen-writing fear.

It ain’t there.

But, there are loads of sites that deal with the hatred of poetry and poetry phobia.

Ironically, poets and non-poets like tend to write poems about their fear of poetry and fears in general. I venture to guess there are ZERO short stories written about the hatred of flashy fiction or fear of novels.

A lost tacky art?

While “poetry has retained its importance as an art form”, wisegeek writes that poetry has “become undervalued as an effective form of communication and expression of true emotion.”

“Poetry is viewed as a tacky and unnecessary form of communication created by few and enjoyed by fewer. But what really makes poetry difficult for many people to enjoy and understand has less to do with poetry’s perceived value and more to do with how people receive information today.”

It’s quick and easy, whereas, poetry can take some time to digest. It may be shorter than a novel, shorter than flashy fiction, even, but it packs a punch.

Wisegeek goes on to suggest that perhaps we have lost the ability to enjoy the musicality of words.

But, I’m here to say, I think it may have always been this way.

Not everyone loves origami.

Not everyone enjoys building sand castles.

Not everyone looks forward to sculling. (Although, I’m learning to enjoy an indoor version of it.)

And not everyone loves a Kyrielle or Ghazal. It leaves them shaking in the their cowboy boots. Or moccasins. Or jellies.

Feeling left out?

But, for those who WANT to overcome their fear so they CAN learn to enjoy poetry, never fear.

The American Psychiatric Association insists metrophobia therapy is available to assist the “sufferer to strip away the negative thoughts and beliefs and recognize the creative freedom that poetry provides to both the creator and the reader.”

If you have decided that your poetry fear has interrupted your life or career and have money to spare, Change That’s Right Now* offers a program to help. An At-Home Study program and also a VIP One-On-One series. Be advised, they do caution that metrophobic drugs are not recommended.

Not sure if your metrophobia is severe? They even offer an on-line test. It will give you a “good general idea of the severity of your problem.”

If seeking professional treatment doesn’t appeal to you, there’s still hope.

Next time we’ll discover other options.

Keep those quarters coming.

***

*This is not an endorsement.

This post originally appeared on Wordsmith Studio

Do you have Metrophobia?

Well, do you ?

This question may remind you of that famous conversation in A Charlie Brown Christmas that went something like this:

Lucy Van Pelt: Are you afraid of responsibility? If you are, then you have hypengyophobia. 

Charlie Brown: I don’t think that’s quite it. 

Lucy Van Pelt: How about cats? If you’re afraid of cats, you have ailurophasia. 

Charlie Brown: Well, sort of, but I’m not sure. 

Lucy Van Pelt: Are you afraid of staircases? If you are, then you have climacaphobia. Maybe you have thalassophobia. This is fear of the ocean, or gephyrobia, which is the fear of crossing bridges. Or maybe you have pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia? 

Charlie Brown: What’s pantophobia? 

Lucy Van Pelt: The fear of everything. 

Charlie Brown: THAT’S IT!

Metrophobia isn’t as bad as all THAT!

But, if your heart is pounding against your favorite sweat-soggy writing t-shirt as you read a simple poetry post, you just may suffer with METROPHOBIA.

And that is sad news for those of us who call ourselves poets because we like sharing our art. We enjoy inviting others to a good poetry party every now and then so we can slip a few metaphors into the brownies in hopes of creating a few more poetic enthusiasts.

Metrophia: the fear of poetry. It’s a real thing.   

Not to be confused with Meteorphia: fear of meteors and meteorites, especially falling ones, which might be a healthy fear now-a-days.

I’m not sure why metrophobic doesn’t mean fear of cities or underground electric  railways. But, it doesn’t. So, don your reality hat and believe me this is a real fear.

Albeit unreasonable.

Most phobia’s are.

According to a survey by Mslexia, the magazine for women who write, as reported in poetrybooks.uk, “one in every nine educated women actively avoids poetry as a reading experience, one in eight feels ‘intimidated’ by it and one in six is irritated because she finds it ‘deliberately obscure.’”

Just think, poets, some of our own treasured genre-writers are sweating droplets of vowels or paragraphs of declarative sentences fearing a frontal attack of poetic sentence fragments.

Poetry can be a scary place for these folks.

As poets, we need to be sensitive to our suffering colleagues, not to mention our potential readers. We need to refrain from behind-the-chapbook chuckling and rhymed chortles .

The thought of friendly scorn only feeds their phobia.

Phobia? But, I thought I just hated it! 

I believe you.

Some phobia experts claim metrophobia may even include the hatred of poetry.  But, perhaps that hate has been cultivated by unreasonable fear.

The good news for you, dear metrophobe, is that  your fear may not be phobic at all. All fear is a matter of degree writes PTSD Central.com.

Fear is a normal reaction when a meteor falls on your house. Fear is a normal reaction when a grizzly bear climbs into your camping tent. Fear is a normal reaction when a crazed lunatic is holding a knife to your throat.

If you fear a Shakespearean sonnet, that may be valid. Poets themselves have a love/hate/fear relationship with sonnets.

But if you fear a nursery rhyme, I’d call that an imagined morbid fear.

Phobiaman sums up a phobia as “a representation of reality that your brain has created. He gives us some insight into the cause by stating that a phobia is “usually attributed to some external learning experience outside of the control of the phobia sufferer. The logic goes something like this.

Before “X” Happened I Was Fine…
After “X” Happened I Had A Phobia…
Therefore “X” Must Have Caused The Phobia.”

Someone somewhere rolled an eye or mocked or belittled our poetry-lover wannabes and the brain path that developed wasn’t kind to rhyme. Or meter. Or form.

Metrophobes may have been conditioned to fear poetry by belittling teachers who expected them to know the hidden meanings of a couplet. Or perhaps our dry-mouthed metrophobe spent three weeks crafting a Porphyria’s Lover love poem, slipped it into the cute guy’s locker only to find it later shredded into mulch in the fern pot by the front entrance.

Traumatic. Heartbreaking.  Phobic-inducing. Hate-generating.

All we need is love.

As sensitive poets, we have a duty to our metrophic writers to enter into their pain, to connect with their fear, and to assist them in the healing process.

Understanding is key to healing the fear. Reasonable fear or the not-so-reasonable fear of metrophobia.

We also have a duty to the poetry world to hide away inside our poem closet and write a sestina about it.

Nothing is sacred. Not even our poetic fears.

Especially not those.

Rest assured, dear Metrophobes, help is on the way . . .  next post.

That will be twenty-five cents please.

 **
This post appeared March 25, 2013 on WordSmith Studio.org
See: Do you have Metrophobia?