No patience for poetry
I have a confession to make to my dear friend, Jesse, but I’m unable to stand face to face and spit it out. So, like one of those cowards who appears on the Jerry Springer show with an unsuspecting spouse and drops a bomb on them, like “I’ve been sleeping with your best friend for six years,” and then tears and chairs fly freely while burly men attempt to subdue the mayhem as the rabid crowd cheers, I’m resorting to this public forum to admit the truth.
OK, here it comes.
Jesse, I know this will come as a shock to you. I know it may hurt you deeply. But I can’t sustain this charade anymore. Jesse, I hate poetry.
I don’t mean “hate” like I hate waiting in line at the post office. I mean hate in a visceral, irrational way that makes me want to pull the whiskers off newborn kittens. It raises my frustration level beyond my ability to cope and makes my brain cells weep in despair. Poetry is like Celine Dion CDs and Thomas Kinkade paintings and white zinfandel. Lots of people love them. I do not. And never will.
Bear in mind, I’m hard-wired to feel this way. I’m a columnist. I strive to write clearly and succinctly, so most people will understand. Poetry is diametrically opposed to this approach. It’s obscure and vague, carefully crafted so that only a few people will understand. I don’t have that much patience with words. Give me a razor-sharp, skintight Molly Ivins rant and I’m a happy gal.
Now, my aversion isn’t toward classic poetry, like that of Sylvia Plath or Emily Dickinson. I like their work. I “get” it. It’s modern, abstract poetry that makes my brain writhe: “Pillows. Stretch and gasp, stretch and gasp. Bones of a dead dog. My mother was a Fascist.” “AAAARGH!!!,” shriek my tiny little brain cells piteously. I’m sure it’s deep and meaningful. But my brain just doesn’t want to work that hard.
It’s just like abstract art. I stand at a gallery, viewing “Woman on Gossamer Wings” and it’s a random splattering of paint, and they aren’t even pretty colors. I stare and stare, and still don’t see a pretty lady riding a white swan under the moonlight. I see a looming canvas that looks like the paint tubes exploded all over it, and rather than toss it out, the artist framed it, hung it up, and assigned it a random name, along with a $6,000 pricetag.
So, back to Jesse. Why Jesse should care about my repugnance for poetry. Well, Jesse just earned her Masters in Fine Arts degree in poetry, and her particular forte leans to the abstract. She’s a rising star. She’s done public readings of her work. A magazine will hit the racks soon with one of her poems in it. Someday, I’ll be one of the peons she knew “back when.” Her master’s thesis was so exquisite, it was posted online. I read it from beginning to end. And then I wept.
My co-worker, Dawn, asked me what was up. I showed her Jesse’s poem called “L-Shaped Pit.” “I don’t get it,” I snuffled. Dawn, somewhat of a poet herself, leaned over, read it, and said it was actually a very good poem, pointing out the poem itself was L-shaped, and then explained that the poem was about what the dead do and don’t say to us from the great beyond.
Hold on, don’t anybody move or breathe, lest the moment be lost. Suddenly, I understand, like Helen Keller did when Teacher finally made that crucial breakthrough: “W… W… Water?” signed Helen with her fingers as Teacher pumped water over her hand. Yes, Teacher replied wearily, yes.
Me and Helen. We can be taught.
Well, if I can grasp “L-Shaped Pit,” I’m willing to entertain the notion that maybe I could learn to appreciate abstract poetry. We’ll have to start slowly and cautiously, like with poems that rhyme. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll learn to like poetry other than my favorite, which begins “There was a young girl from Nantucket…”
As for art, however, I’d still just rather look at a pretty lady on a white swan.