Home » Other Writing » My Feelings on Poetry and Why I Seldom Read Any: An Explanation of Myself

My Feelings on Poetry and Why I Seldom Read Any: An Explanation of Myself

I am a poet. That much, at least, should be clear to you by now if you’re reading this. I also happen to be about as selfish, stubborn, hypocritical, and contradictory as a person can get. Any great poet must be that way, I think. Poetry is just not something you can be good at if you’re a generally nice, well-adjusted person with a sunny disposition. The business of exposing truth is not a pleasant one done by pleasant people.

It is, however, a necessary occupation for both the writers and readers of poetry. Never can enough be said about the dire need for poetry in a weary, confusing world, but the reality of my selfishness is that I do it because I would burst into shreds without it. I don’t know of any other way to calm the boiling seas in my head and heart. Most days I am sick with it.

I suppose you know already that I must also be operating on some level of lunacy to commit to a year-long project that requires so much of my time and dedication- in essence, a lifestyle commitment. The worrisome part of it is that since severely curbing my free time and social interaction in favor of writing, I think I have actually become more stable, more satisfied… dare I say, happy?

But I do admit that within this project lies a deeper motivation, which points right back to that aforementioned selfishness: I want to be excellent. Eventually I want to be published, that’s no secret, but before that I want to be exceptional at what I do. The only way I know how to get better at something is to keep trying, laboriously.

One of the most important aspects about being excellent, perhaps even more important than skill, is originality. Ironically, I cannot yet say whether I possess any originality because I wouldn’t know- I don’t read poetry. While there are certain poems and poets that I admire as being outstanding, what I mean to say is that I am not a student of poetry. I don’t read the greats to learn how it’s done. I just do it.

(I can justΒ feel your eyes rolling, the bile rising in your throats, but I’m going to continue this self-absorbed rant to its conclusion, please and thanks.) If there’s any kind of poetry that I do read (besides my own, over and over obnoxiously) it’s bad poetry. I can’t get enough of it: cliche, clustered, poorly written, naive, all-around bad poetry. And I know you’re thinking it’s probably so I can gloat and feel all yay-look-at-me about it, and of course that’s partially true (didn’t I tell you I’m like that?) but actually it does a world of good for me by stirring up some motivational disgust when I need it. Also it’s usually hilarious.

I think there’s a beautiful place in heaven for the writers of bad poetry, especially for the beatings they take from snarky narcissists like me, who will have my own little fiery pit for making fun of it. I would never in my life discourage anyone from writing poetry; as self-therapy I’ve seen it work wonders. (I take a little bit of an issue with wanting to share the results of said self-therapy with the world at dreadful coffee shop readings, or worse, peddling chapbooks full of it, but that’s really none of my affair.) I think if more people wrote with the purpose of exploring their own inner-selves as opposed to somehow gaining fame and fortune (ha!) we wouldn’t have all this angst floating around, trying to find an outlet.

To summarize (which is proving difficult because I can’t seem to remember why the hell I was prompted to write this or what I’m even getting at) I guess what I mean to say to my current 720 followers (lord knows how that happened) is that if you take a gander over at that pretty black-and-white author portrait on the right of the page, you’d never guess that was a cell phone selfie in somebody’s really nice bathroom. I’m more of a schmuck than you know. This poetry project has made me happier, but no less of a selfish, egotistical person, and I’m not even sorry for it. I owe it only to finding the thing I was meant to do. And to all of you I say- you owe it to yourselves to find the thing which you’re meant to do, the thing about which you can write an entirely self-congratulating essay, detailing how great you are at doing it. Find the thing which sets your mind on fire and makes you not care that people generally don’t want to read about you blowing your own horn. Find that thing and do it.



23 thoughts on “My Feelings on Poetry and Why I Seldom Read Any: An Explanation of Myself

  1. There is much that I relate to in your self admonished ‘rant’,. There are also somethings I think you are wrong on , but it may simply be an issue of semantics. I appreciate your forwardness and would love to strike up a dialogue about this but not in public. If you’re interested contact me on my email annotating@aol.com, or not. Best >KB

  2. I am torn on this. πŸ˜‰ I myself am a poet and I am sure some of what I write would be considered “bad” poetry to you. *laughs* But while I am offended, it’s only slightly so.

    For every person who isn’t into what I write, there are many others who are. I write because I was born to do it. I do agree that I am not a studier of poetry, mainly because yes one can’t really be taught how to write it. Either you can or you can’t. My brother once asked me to teach him how to write poetry because he had to write a poem for his English class. I looked at him with a dumbfounded expression, because I had never thought about it until he asked me to teach him how, that well, you can’t be taught how. I told him either you have it in you to do this and it comes to you naturally or you don’t and no amount of forcing this will help you.

    I share what I write because I like what I have written and want others to see it, but largely because I hope it will touch someone’s heart, that it inspire someone, that it will help, that it will cause someone to smile. I suppose in the end, to each their own. I am glad you love what you do and that you’re proud of it, no shame should be had for such things. πŸ˜‰

    • Most assuredly, the term “bad poetry” is relative. I don’t mean to insult anyone’s tastes, as surely my own poetry would be in that category to plenty of people. My “bad poetry” is not necessarily what anyone else would consider bad, and of course I would never point out to a person that I don’t like their poetry, nor would I discourage anyone from writing it. But it’s like that with any art- most of us get an A for effort but it never comes close to being great, myself included.

      • True, it’s all relative to the individual’s tastes. πŸ™‚ And as long as we love what we do, we should keep doing it! πŸ™‚

  3. Oooh, I’d be so flamed, if I didn’t already know I made cheesy, bad poetry sometimes- and in this instance, I rather feel like standing and applauding your temerity. Dissecting and viewing yourself in the harshest light can make it easier to accept the criticism of others sometimes, but don’t be too hard on yourself- reading your own work, becoming proud of it, tweaking it, admiring it- it’s all part of the process; sort of like you’re feeding your poetry the right “foods” so it can grow big and strong, and one day make someone cry… or something πŸ˜‰ Keep it up, I still want to read what happens after day 365!

  4. Your point concerning bad poetry in particular really stuck with me. It takes a lot of courage to write poetry, whether it’s bad or good, and the purpose of exploring the inner self can be a difficult one at the best of times, horrendous at the worst.

  5. It’s funny because, although I’m a new subscriber, I’m ashamed to admit this is the only thing I’ve read completely, and commented on. I really loved this, and the honesty it took to write it. I have hundreds and hundreds of poems hidden away that I’ve written, but I couldn’t name a single poet. I’ve never in my life sat down to read a book of someone else’s poetry. I’ve only just now subscribed to other bloggers who write poetry, since I just started my own site – mostly for self-promotion- if I’m being completely honest. I’ve been petrified of reading other’s poetry, because I don’t want it contaminating my thoughts. I don’t want to self-consciously steal anyone else’s work, because so much of my poetry is sub-consciously written. My poetry is mine, and I can barely read my own, let alone someone else’s – although sometimes, like you, I read it over and over and over again until it disgusts me with its simplicity. You’re right – we are all selfish. It takes that absorption to wring out all the mess. Thanks for sharing this – I thoroughly enjoyed it. πŸ™‚

    • “I’ve been petrified of reading other’s poetry, because I don’t want it contaminating my thoughts.”
      I don’t think it will contaminate your thoughts… only make the thoughts even richer.
      I mean, It’s the same as not speaking with others, for fear that it might contaminate our thoughts or emotions. Sure it will! (If only a tiny bitsy).
      But that’s also the real Beauty of Being a human. No man nor a woman to themselves, or as an island.
      How sad would this world not be if no one listened to or communicated with others.

  6. Sometimes I read something I have written, some time later, maybe more than once, and I can’t figure out what I was trying to say, and I wonder how anyone else does, but somehow it seems they do. I have the same problem with my artwork – I don’t know what someone else sees in it, but they do seem to have a reaction. Because they tell me, that’s the way I know.

    For me I just like doing art and writing poetry. I try to make the results as true to what I have to say, but I feel my vocabulary is awfully limited. Still, it seems important to try.

    I read others’ poetry in this same spirit. It’s a great thing to be able to participate just a little in someone else’s internal world, I think.

    Don’t know what I’m saying here (surprise, I guess?) but I enjoyed this post. Made me think.

  7. Hi. I like your stuff. I will tell you that I disagree heavily with your choice to avoid the good poets, for many writers have the same temptation to avoid great novels (for fear of, in some fashion, ripping them off). But all art is a mixture of our ideas, emotions and…skills. Skill is learned, partially by doing, but moreso by watching those who have become experts. What we learn from (either explicit or implicit) lessons of “the masters” strengthens our craft.
    Those are my 2 unsolicited cents.

  8. A well written rant Ma’am, and although these opinions are your own, I don’t entirely agree with the ideologies you present in your original paragraph.
    Although I believe myself to be one of the biggest pretentiously egotistical ass’s in the entire southern hemisphere, I have never thought this ideology came through my writing. Although I agree that the idea of being a generally ‘nice’ person has no effect on my poetry, I don’t necessarily see how a person can be deliberately selfish in their writing. For me, a man who primarily writes about love and having depression (not necessarily in the exact same poem), I find that these two emotional areas are the key influences of my work, and sometimes I am motivated to perhaps immortalise an idea onto a written page, or present an argument that others may potentially relate to.
    Moreover, I cam understand you not reading the poetry of other people, for I have heard of other poetic writers doing the exact same thing. I don’t necessarily read the poems of others to learn from them, and although I particularly enjoy older pieces (Shakespeare, Donne, Marvell, etc) this is less about the style of writing as it is about the content, and my general feel that their writing was orchestrated at a time when romance and feeling was so much more passionately powerful than it is today.
    On this note, I may, and probably am in all likelihood, one of those bad poets you were talking about; not because I believe myself to be a bad writer per say, but because a teacher of poetry might have a field day with the kind of form I create. I generally prefer free style, and although many an individual may jump up and down and insist on proper use of syllables, stanzas, syntax and other such schemes, I personally do not, and believe that as long as the poem flows, it does not need to be in such a fixed style, nor even tell a story. For me, poetry is about feelings and emotions, and evoking this same feeling in someone else. No matter if a poem is about love, hate or even walking down the street, it is about putting the reader in the moment to experience that emotion; my opinion anyway.
    Although poetry comes from the actual person, and some may argue it is therefore impossible not to become somewhat pretentious about one’s work, I think a poem is up for grabs as soon as it is published, for a million different people could relate to it in a million different ways.
    Additionally I’m a hopeless romantic, so naturally I a going to disagree with portions of your assessment, no matter how intelligently well written it was. Clearly this way works for you, but as previously stated, I disagree with your first few thoughts.
    Sorry for the long comment.

  9. Pingback: Where have all the cliches gone? « How my heart speaks

  10. Pingback: I could not agree more. | The Writing Catalog

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  12. As one who also abhors “bad” poetry–whatever that may actually be–but who has (and does) read all the poetry he can get his grubby hands on, I’m so torn between hysterical laughter and a conniption fit that I can’t see straight. Which is a good thing.

    I like people who say what they mean, even if it means pissing people off. Especially when they have the skills to back it up. Which, based on what I’ve read so far, you do. I think, perhaps, the goal of being published isn’t too far out of reach…

    • That’s so encouraging to hear, especially that you saw the humor in it! People taking me too seriously just makes me want to say more outrageous things, and mostly I curb myself so as not to hinder that goal of being published, when I’ll be needing those same people to support my work… But every now and again, the snark gets out and I can only hope it’s recognized for what it is. Even the most serious poet has to be ridiculous sometimes.
      Thanks for reading, and for the kind comments πŸ™‚

  13. I love this post. Truly. It’s the reason I’m going to start following you. Btw, your selfie rocks (I say that partly from admiration and partly from jealousy). πŸ™‚

  14. Respect for your commitment and self-exploration, honesty as you see it (which I think is how we all do it, through our own filters) and humour, again in your way! πŸ™‚
    On nearing the end, I would love to hear how have you experienced the journey? Email is Robmcshane8@gmail.com if you prefer a private chat!
    Thanks for sharing yourself – takes courage!

  15. Pingback: Where have all the cliches gone? | How my heart speaks

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