WOW! How exciting! This is a Choose Your Own Adventure post!
If you love poetry, poetry is your favorite thing, or you think poetry is the best kind of literature turn to page 64.
If you wrote a special poem for your aunt when she had cancer and it makes you both cry, turn to page 117.
If you won an award for your clever poem that you wrote in 7th grade, and the award is still on your wall, turn to page 14.
If you do not love poetry or are indifferent, continue reading.
I Hate poetry. Here’s why: I realize that people sometimes have difficulty verbalizing their feelings. That’s fine. I realize that words can be symbolic. That’s fine, too. I realize that love and death are intense, and that brevity is sometimes more powerful than lengthy writing. Okay. However: I hate that with poetry, we are expected to read into it all. In a story, themes are there, and I can see them, or infer them, but nobody expects me to make up basic facts relevant to the story. We would extrapolate the themes, or the feelings, or whatever, and apply them to our lives, but it would be all subjective and everyone would agree that it was subjective. Or, with allegories you may have completely other meanings, which are even symbolic, but it’s logical.
With poetry, you’re given basically nothing, and you’re expected to identify facts that you would have absolutely no way of knowing. It’s ridiculous. We read a poem in class, and discussed it. From the punctuation, we understood that the speaker’s brother had died really recently, probably the same day. From punctuation! Mind you, I love punctuation. I think semi colons are fantastic. When I am excited, I litter my writing with exclamation points. I am passionate about serial commas. I know that punctuation can seriously alter the meaning of text. I’ve seen that one letter that has the punctuation changed and it goes from a love letter to a hate letter. However, our interpretations based on the punctuation had nothing to do with actual, contextual meaning. It had to do with the feeling of the punctuation. Give me a break.
I do think poetry is occasionally respectable. I guess, I’m in favor of the privatization of poetry. If your dad dies, and you’re sad about it, by all means, write a poem if that does something for you. Share it with your family, and maybe maybe your friends since it will mean something to them too. But don’t give me your poem and expect me to guess that the “song of sunrise” actually meant that every summer you went fishing with him and you miss the way he would sing so that the fish would bite, and you wonder if he‘s fishing in heaven. It’s just not in there. Sorry. And that doesn’t mean that I didn’t like your dad, or that I think your poetry stinks. I just can’t understand it like you meant for it to be understood, because those words were your way of expressing your very personal feelings. I would have chosen different words. If you really want me to understand, graph it for me. Or use clear language. But the point isn’t for me to understand; the point is for you to learn something about yourself, or for you to find a way to express something for yourself. Whenever you write a poem, you’re writing it for you. Even if it’s a love poem to someone, it’s still a poem for you, because the whole point is that you want to express something that you feel you can‘t express (or which you choose not to express) in a direct method. It’s the same way that philosophically people argue that having kids is a selfish thing. Yeah, you give up sleep and make sacrifices, but it’s so that there will be more of you in the world after you die. (You can take that or leave it, but that is what some people think, philosophically, about people having kids.) So since I really do believe poetry is a personal thing, I don’t feel any obligation to guess at what it means.
I can understand how dissecting poetry can help us create symbolism, and watch for subtleties in writing. I can also see how poetry can sometimes be fun. I like some poetry, when I make it mean something new to me instead of trying to guess why the author wrote it. I do also enjoy the challenge of creating poems with particular rhythms. I like funny poetry. I think that some poems are kind of like a collage of senses; they can combine smells and imagery and those sorts of things, and that’s kind of interesting and even occasionally powerful.
Generally, though, I think poetry tends to be a big game of “Guess what I’m thinking!” and I hate that game. I’m not a mind-reader. I think a lot of people who get excited about poetry are really pretentious. This possibly comes from believing that they actually can guess what other people think. I’m not sure.
It looks like the first three weeks of my English class we’re studying poetry. I plan to do what any self-respecting person would do in my situation: BS my way through it. I’ll have just enough of an opinion about the poems to get my class participation points, and to have something to write about for my essay, and hope that time passes quickly so that we can get started with real literature.
I usually try to keep my posts very positive. I realize that hating poetry leaves me in the minority. (A Google search of “I hate poetry” returned 7,320 results. “I love poetry” returned 9,190 results. "Why I hate poetry" returns 200 results and "why I love poetry" returns 2,130.) Still, I feel so strongly about this today that I wanted to write about it.