Poetry’s for Sissies

Posted on July 20, 2017


For years I’ve heard persons who write poetry complain, “Why don’t people like poetry?” (Or variations: “Why doesn’t anyone read poetry?” “How can we make poetry more popular?”)

Poetry, in fact, is subversive. It creeps into everyday thought through popular music, advertising, scientific speculation. A creative writing Ph. D. (of whom there are many attached to universities in the United States) speculated, “On might think that poems might be ideal for the mobile ap short attention span readers of today.”

But as “poetry” it has negative implications. Over the years I’m known numerous writers of poetry who avoided identifying themselves as “poets” because the word evoked effeminate connotations. (“Football is for real guys, poetry for sissies.”) A well-established woman writer of poetry once told me, “Even in college I hid the poetry I was reading inside the pages of a fashion magazine.”

Though poetry is not for sissies—poetry volumes about the Vietnam War or child abuse prove that—reading poetry isn’t for mobile ap short attention span types nor those who thrive on “stimulating” romance and dystopian novels. Poetry is stimulating—but not in current context of the word which has become synonymous with “thrilling,” “exciting,” “can’t put it down.”

To read poetry, in fact, one should put it down. Pause over what the images evoke, feel their presence in that intuitive way the mind has of absorbing meaning, not just facts. Just as one should pause looking at the trees and flowers and helicopters before skipping on to immediate sensory gratifications. Not because they’re “pretty” but because they’re integral parts of emotional/intellectual life that Twitter and Facebook trivialize.

Why read poetry?

Why not? Just like life itself it’s challenging, quirky, informative, real.

Posted in: Poetry