Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not a Poet and Don't I Know It!

Last night I went to a reading without knowing much ahead of time and one of the readers was a poet. I automatically groaned to myself. And while I liked his poems okay, I thought it was time that I admit something I've not told many people: I hate poetry. Yes, of course there are a dozen or so poems that I do like, but considering that I've read many hundreds, that does not change my mind (the exception proves the rule.)

This is a big secret among literary types. You are allowed to not like genre fiction, or to call literary novels snobby. No one would blink at an adult not liking to read children's books, and it's perfectly acceptable to say one doesn't like nonfiction. But for someone like me - who has centered her life around the written word since age 17 - I am for some reason not allowed to dislike poetry. I get dirty looks, people shift away perceptibly, and start to whisper behind my back. And it's so unfair!

I've read a little bit of everything! I even try to read the popular books I'm sure I'll hate just so that I can speak authoritatively on them and wouldn't fall prey to tarring them based solely on hearsay. I've read romances, horror, even some sci fi and fantasy. I've read pet books, sports books, and even a couple of business books. I try not to exclude anything. But I don't like poetry.

I recently gave up on a book, and my friend K. pointed out something I'd noticed and had chosen to ignore before I started it - the author's bio began by calling him a poet. She considered that a warning sign and I should have too. I am struggling with writing a review for my book club book that I finished a couple of days ago that I did not love. It's very poetic. Funny, when most people say those words they mean it as a compliment, and I do not.

I prefer straightforward. Direct. Simple. Wordy and flowery and romantic are all big turn-offs for me. Yes, I do love a perfect and unexpected metaphor, a sharp turn of phrase, and well-chosen words, but not in a poem. Recently I was listening to a story and a guy was described as having done something very romantic: he wrote his lover a poem. I rolled my eyes and made a gagging face. In New York I was set up on a date by B. with a guy from her MFA program. I should have asked first what he wrote. Because as soon as he started babbling about poetry over dinner, I lost my appetite. In an effort to turn him off I started talking about my therapy, but I should have known better. For a poet, that was more of a turn-on that a turn-off.

So I am going to make a stand here. I am an English major, and I hate poetry.


gautami tripathy said...

You hate poetry, but you will definitely like mine. Just click on my name and you will know what I mean. No, I don't write mushy poetry..

tediousandbrief said...

Your not the first English major or English major graduate I've heard tell me they don't like poetry.

I got a minor in English and the nearest I took to taking a poetry class was a racially-specific literature survey class that used poetry A LOT. Trying to figure out what the author meant and then presenting it to the class every few days was terrible!

Carin Siegfried said...

@tedious, I was required as an English major to take a poetry course. Not only did I not like it at all (British Romanticism) but a guy I really liked, D., who the semester before had told me he still wasn't over his ex, showed up in class with a girlfriend. Who was also in the class. In fact she sat next to me. And they made googly eyes at each other over me. It didn't help my feelings about poetry AT ALL.

@Gautami - you're hilarious! You really want to direct a poetry hater toyour poetry? Really? Careful what you ask for!

Lesa said...

Funny-- one of my co-bloggers, Tracy, just posted about Rumi the poet. Of course, not being a poetry fan I had never heard of Rumi. I do like some poetry but never choose to read it on purpose-- mainly because I don't 'get it'. I do better when I hear it and I'd like to be better educated about poetry-- so maybe my co-blogger will do more poetry posts.

Melissa said...

I have to admit the same, Carin. I think loving literature doesn't mean all forms of the written word will be wonderful to you. I love music (with a passion) but I could do without most jazz...you just have to go with what resonates for you and leave the rest for others to enjoy!

Kathy said...

I'm like Lesa--I do better when I hear it too--I have actually bought a couple of books of poetry after hearing the actual poet doing a reading, because it actually made sense to me then. It's kind of like hearing Shakespeare performed instead of just reading it.

Kate Scott said...

Right there with you. I don't mind flowery prose, but there are few poems that really stand out to me. I don't have the patience for poetry. Lewis Carroll's poetry includes some of the few poems I find really good.