I like to think of myself as a reader. Not so much that I’m “well read.” I’ve read some classics and a lot of nonfiction in the last few years. I have also read some highly entertaining novels that few would list as “literature.” I’m rambling… My point is that I like to think of myself as someone who reads a lot of different genres and forms. But I have a dirty little secret. I hate poetry.
Maybe you are thinking that isn’t so uncommon. A lot of people dislike poetry. I, however, have discovered I have a completely irrational hatred of poetry that I do not completely understand. I know it is judgey but nearly all poets make me roll my eyes. I think as a writer I feel like poets should make the time and effort to write a story that might relate to someone besides themselves. I suppose a poet’s response might be that I’m too inefficient to express myself in a poem; I need an multi-page composition. And I would defend myself. With a classically structured persuasive essay.
A few years ago I was talked into going to a poetry reading at the King’s English Bookstore here in Salt Lake City. I went with a friend and once we arrived I saw that they had an open box of wine, which is my favorite flavor. Open, that is.
I thought, “Okay… I can do this. It is poetry, but it isn’t bourgie poetry. It’s box wine poetry.”
I was fine (bored, but fine) until the second poet got up to read from his recently published collection. You are already picturing him, probably. He was wearing a sports jacket, jeans, and a stringy pony tail. In the third or fourth poem he recited the line, “The spider scuttled out from beneath the ice cube…” and I had to bite my hand to keep from yelling, “No it didn’t and fuck you for saying that it did!!!”
‘Where the hell did that come from?’ I asked myself, taking a sniff of my boxed chardonnay to search for clues. What about this poor cliché of a man had invited the full furnace of my rage, without any discernible prelude?
I elbowed my friend and we slipped out the side door and went to dinner at the Lebanese restaurant next door. ‘Maybe I was hurt very badly in a past life by a mediocre poet,’ I hypothesized as we crunched through the snow between the two sidewalks. ‘Or maybe I was a spider who was unsuspectingly crushed by ice.’
We will never know.