Somewhere in April I know, and maybe more than once, the question of what makes something poetry, came up. Or maybe it was what makes a poem a good poem. In any case I had vowed to come back to this topic, as it is an important one for me. But before we delve into definitions and such, it might help to first ask a few questions, like, Why does it seem that poetry hasn’t been a very popular art for some time now? For a while I feared that it was a dying art form, but there is a great deal of evidence, noticeable to those of us who have been performing CPR on the old beast, that it is gaining new and younger followers again.
So why do some people “hate poetry?” Why do I sometimes hate it? Jlynn Sheridan was talking about this on her blog recently as regards to her husband’s feelings on the topic. In her follow up she was kind enough to quote me in the discussion. It’s worth a read. I think the main thing is that poetry shouldn’t be torture, and it certainly shouldn’t be some trick played on us by someone who thinks they are oh-so clever.
So I guess that part of where I am going with this is to explore what poetry is not, and how it has become regarded in recent history. I want to spend some more time discussing what poetry really is, or what I think it should be, and how a growing group of folks seem to be making progress at bringing the enjoyment of poetry back to the masses, and back to people’s every day lives.
For now, here’s a bit of Jlynn’s blog for context, but be sure to click over there to read her secret confessions.
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.)
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?