So back in junior high, in my artsy pretentious moody phase (which was in part exacerbated by my artsy pretentious junior high and in part exacerbated, honestly, by the fact that I subconsciously wanted to impress a moody girl a year ahead of me, not that I knew this), I wrote poetry. Freeverse and thoroughly untrained – I had no idea what I was doing – I was writing poems about the darkness of life. I was twelve. I was not a particularly self-assured or evenly-keeled girl, but let’s be real. I had no business writing melancholia.
(My personal fiction at the time was similarly toned, but at least it had plots. It was mildly more excusable, even if all of the main characters had unnaturally colored hair and fanciful names with unnecessary Valyrian ys in them.)
I managed to break myself of this habit fairly quickly, and from there on my relationship with poetry got… spotty. Reading it in class, I could go “oh, that’s interesting, I understand” and genuinely appreciate it for what it was, but I to this day have not sought out printed poetry for pleasure. I just can’t do it. More often than not, when I see poetry on my dash on Tumblr, I skim.
(You might say this is silly, I’m the girl who takes apart song lyrics regularly. I don’t know. I can’t explain it. I do know that I stopped writing songs that weren’t about someone else’s fictional characters and kind of a joke when I stopped writing poetry, but I think songs are just easier to process for me for reasons unknown.)
I took a creative writing class in high school, and everyone was really excited about the poetry unit. I sighed internally. Student poetry often has the effect of making me feel really self-conscious, even when it’s not my own, and this class was no exception; I swore early on (aided by my being in a Spring Awakening phase at the time) that I was going to only write nostalgic poems about my childhood (which were sometimes romanticized) because I was not going to confess any present-tense emotions to these veritable strangers.
(Another funny thing: my fiction, including that which I shared in that class, is often motivated by personal things. But I guess changing the names and setting it in the 1950s or whatever makes it easier to share.)
In college, I took several classes largely or entirely about poetry, because general evaluation of historical literature involves a lot of poetry. I see why, I see the significance, but I learned another thin about poetry in those classes: there are people who will make even someone else’s poetry about them to a degree that I didn’t want to know them. Even classic poetry, which I really was trying hard to appreciate, got way too personal. And the modern poetry – while, again, I appreciated its significance, sometimes it went over my head in a way that I’m not used to language things doing. So I was uncomfortable in that way, too.
(Drift partner tells me that none of this is unusual. Sitting in a classroom filled with the kinds of pretentiousish English majors who roll their eyes at the concept that films can have literary merit, I felt like it was the most unusual thing in the world. But I’m sure it’s not, because she’s usually right about things like this and because, well, I can’t possibly have been the only English major to genuinely just not get poetry sometimes.)
It’s recently occurred to me that it could in part be a processing thing? That for some reason my brain drew a line about where was and was not an acceptable level of… indirect, perhaps?… and that’s where some poetry came down. It’s not to say it isn’t important, or good, or to pass judgment on anyone else. I guess this is just me wanting to say: no matter how much of a language arts dork you are, poetry doesn’t have to be for you, some or all. That’s okay. This is someone who used to feel weird on that account telling you it’s totally not.
–your fangirl heroine.