“Poetry is the black hole of literature,” one of my professors says often. I couldn’t agree more. While I’m fairly sure she means it as a compliment, I view it as one of those two-sided comments, one that is both good and bad. And this? This is because I’m a terrible English major and really never read poetry in my spare time and rarely enjoy reading it, ever. This isn’t just because I haven’t read any since high school and I’m out of practice, this is just because I sort of have a weird thing of enjoying plots and characters and function over form.
Poetry can have all of those things! you’re arguing. Well, yes, but particularly modern poetry tends to sacrifice meaning for looking avant-garde on the page. I can’t stand that. It’s taking the joy of reading out, it’s making you focus too much on trivialities.
Songs are potry! you argue. But songs, good songs anyway, are good poetry. Nobody writes songs where there’s three and a half measures between one lyric, seven measures between another, just to be hip. And some poetry, particularly older poetry, does read like a song. An esoteric, tediously romantic song, sometimes, but still.
I think I’m also biased against poetry because I’ve got too many bad memories of high school creative writing class. My teacher always used to tease me about the fact that I was incapable of writing poetry about myself that wasn’t about myself as a child. This? This is because I remembered all too well my awful self-indulgent poetry phase of thirteen years, where I wrote angsty rhyming verses about nothing and thought I was sooooo deep. Maybe when I’m an adult I’ll be able to write poetry, but I haven’t lived long enough, I haven’t livedenough period, to have something worthy of writing verse about in my past. And sure, not all poetry has to be about yourself. But in high school creative writing class, it is, and that’s just tainted me.
I honestly think the last poem I read was the Moritat found in the prologue to the original play of Spring’s Awakening. I don’t know if it counts. But I still have a bit of it memorized after four years, so that’s got to. I was about to write out the bit I’ve still got committed to memory, but then I remembered it’s sort of crude. (I refuse to believe that that’s why I remember it. I may have a dirty mind, but not that dirty of one. More likely, it’s because my friend and I used to chant it at each other while doing history homework and giggle. Mature, we were.)
And then there’s the matter of my being, despite excessively fantastical, hardly romantic, in the romance sense or the literary sense. (Closer to the literary, but.) I’m just… too cynical to swallow love poems most days. I accept that this is my own failing and not poetry’s itself. I’m not sure what it says about me that I’d rather read about the gory killing of a zombie or something than someone’s epic tale of romance, but that fact stands. There’s just so little quirky romance in poetry, and quirky romance is the only sort I can handle.
I don’t know. I’m not anti-poetry full stop. But I’m definitely just… sigh. Skeptical.
–your fangirl heroine.