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You don’t really hate poetry; you just think you do because some English teacher beat you over the head with Blake, tortured you with Tennyson, or insisted there was a cogent message in “Jabberwocky” and some actual purpose in all of Emily’s endless capitals. Instead, she should have had you reading Beloc and Whittier and writing limericks; that would have been just as valuable and a lot more fun.
Poetry is fun, but people wrinkle their nose and roll their eyes whenever I say that. That’s because they’ve never read David Vincenti’s “Prayer Before Assembling the Rugged Tykes Free-Standing Play Kitchen with RealGlow Microwave Action,” or Marge Piercy’s “One Reason I Like Opera,” or Mike Orlock’s “Watermelons Are From Mars, Cantaloupes Are From Venus.”
Four years ago, I got tired of defending poetry as NOT BORING and started www.YourDailyPoem.com to prove my point. I’ve shared over 1400 poems thus far and, while some are more riveting than others, there’s not a dull one in the bunch. Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of boring poetry out there, but you’ll do us all a favor by not reading it. You don’t owe a poet more than a 5-second glance; if he or she hasn’t hooked you in the first three or four lines, you’re justified in moving on. Part of the appeal of poetry is its brevity; like texting, it’s supposed to be quick and to the point.
Or not. That’s another appeal of poetry: there aren’t any rules! (That’s a reason to love it right there.) Oh, if you’re composing in a particular form—like a sonnet or cinquain— there are, but in general, in poetry, the poet calls the shots. One poem might be six lines, another might be sixty (better be a dang good poem to keep me reading that one). One might be a hilarious, rhymed description of techno-overload, another might be a prosaic tale of a father and son that will have you weeping into your caramel mocha latte.
To filch Forrest Gump’s oh-so-apt description, poetry is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get when you bite into a title—and that’s the utter joy of the experience. When you find a poem you like, you can savor every luscious line, eat it again and again and again (bonus: no calories!), and go looking for more just like it. The ones you don’t like, well, feel free to leave those in the box. What you think is awful, somebody else might love.
See, poetry is just like TV shows and novels and ballgames and blind dates, which are—sometimes magnificent, sometimes deeply satisfying, sometimes deadly dull, sometimes excruciating. You can’t lump all those experiences into one category, and you can’t do it with poetry, either.
During April, I invite you to join the fun at YourDailyPoem.com and do a little sampling: one poem a day, won’t cost you a thing beyond a minute or two of your time and, who knows? You might actually enjoy it! In fact, by the end of the month, you might be inspired to write and submit your own poem. (Imagine! Your English teacher could die happy!)
Feel free to drop by the YDP home page at random, or enter your email address in the “Subscribe” box and sign up for the April Poetry Parade. Either way, I hope to see you there. Happy Poetry Month!
Jayne Jaudon Ferrer is the author of five books and the host and editor of www.YourDailyPoem.com. Visit her website at www.JayneJaudonFerrer.com.
Caroline Starr Rose says
“What you think is awful, somebody else might love.” This is true with all writing and has really taught me to be less of a snob. Thanks so much for your post today!
Heidi Willis says
Poetry is such a subjective thing. I entered a poem in a national poetry contest in high school and won first place and a college scholarship. I submitted that poem for a class in college and it was the only one of mine the professor absolutely hated… and made me re-write. Go figure!
“See, poetry is just like TV shows and novels and ballgames and blind dates, which are—sometimes magnificent, sometimes deeply satisfying, sometimes deadly dull, sometimes excruciating. You can’t lump all those experiences into one category, and you can’t do it with poetry, either.” ~ I think this is my favorite paragraph here. This is SO TRUE!! Thanks for reminding people!
Caroline Starr Rose says
Heidi, how interesting! Poetry, writing — all all is so subjective. I love this call to find what you love and embrace it.
Faith E. Hough says
That’s great to hear someone doing something active to help adults learn to love poetry. Amazing the difference a good or bad teacher can make! My parents taught me to love poetry, and I was always amazed when friends said they “didn’t get it.”
Caroline Starr Rose says
And I love how you make poetry a natural part of your children’s lives. Well done!
YourDailyPoem is a great idea! I’m going to subscribe.
Laurel Garver says
Poetry can indeed be fun! I so agree that the brevity and focus are what make it so. Juggling multiple plot lines and motivations and character arcs can make writing fiction just exhausting. Poetry is where I go to play and recharge.
Jayne Jaudon Ferrer says
What a great role for poetry to play in our lives–“to play and recharge!” I often compare reading poetry to gettting a cool squirt of water on a hot, summer day.
I like the idea of a daily poem. Ok, I’m trying to get over my fear of poetry. I’ll subscribe too.