April is National Poetry Month and each year I am bombarded with poems and poets that have me fast-forwarding through my podcasts and skimming my emails. I've often said I hate poetry. And last night, I had to admit something that few people know about me. There are actually a handful of poets that I like.
In fact last year I was thrilled when I was able to explain to my husband the significance of "Ozymandias" by Keats when he was watching the last episode of Breaking Bad. I have a treasured collection of poems by Emily Dickinson that I will never get rid of no matter how many book purges I go through (and I know that most of her poems can be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas.") In college, I loved the poetry of Sharon Olds and Mary Oliver.
I hate romantic poetry. I hate anything sappy or maudlin. Funny, I like. Or rip-your-heart-out visceral. I like narrative. I like to be able to understand the poem without a great deal of gymnastics (I believe with poems, even more so than books, that the difficulty of understanding indicates a great failure on the part of the writer, not the reader.) I like a good symbol. I never seek out poetry. I don't remember the last time I read a poem by choice (I suspect I was a teen.) But I really should stop saying that I hate poetry. It's reductive and untrue. It's just the easiest thing to say that stops a conversation I don't want to have. But that's not a good reason.