The Compulsion to Repeat Sounds

C. Dale linked to this article, in which a self-professed life-long lover of poetry laments the reduction of poets writing what he calls “rhyming verse.”

It always irritates me when I hear this discussion, not because I think rhyming is lame, but because people are obsessed with repetition when it comes to rhyme. And they want the nursery rhyme meter, too, because it’s soothing.

Am I being overly critical of patterned rhyme? I will admit that it is difficult to do well, but that done well, it’s an interesting (and significant) element of a poem. However, like in free verse, there are hundreds upon thousands of practitioners who do not understand how to incorporate patterned rhyme into their work effectively.

I think it’s also just as egregeous to refuse to look beyond rhymed verse. Any of us who limit our experiences of literature are not being responsible readers.

But then again—is it wrong to thank him for reading in the first place?

Moving Day

I’m moving to a new apartment today. Kind of my dream apartment, actually. 19′ ceilings, loft space, all the space I need.

But let me tell you. I’ve had to move at least once in 10 of the past 12 years. I’ll break it down for you:

1995: moved to dorm room
1996: moved home, moved to off-campus apartment, moved to dorm room
1997: moved to new dorm room, moved home, moved to new dorm room
1998: moved to off-campus apartment, moved to dorm room
1999: moved to boyfriend’s apartment, then together moved to a new apartment
2000: moved from apartment to dorm (housing provided by job)
2001: moved to Arizona (approx 1790 miles)
2002: [did not move]
2003: moved to off-campus apartment (quit job that provided housing)
2004: moved to townhouse with boyfriend)
2005: [did not move]
2006: moved to apartment (break-up move)
2007: moved because my apartment was SOLD and they didn’t tell me

That’s 17 moves, if you were counting. What’s worse is that when I moved to college, my parents wanted to start trying to sell their house, so they literally made me take everything that belonged to me. Everything.

I’ve carted it around like a sad little nomad ever since.

Effigy Poetics

Thanks to all who linked to the TIME magazine article about why poetry sucks and doesn’t meet anyone’s needs. After reading it, I feel like I am now a part of a very hoity-toity circle of airbags—like the Marketing Department in Dilbert but with bigger vocabularies.

Blaming poets for poetry sucking seems like the right thing to do. After all, we don’t blame the gun for killing someone, we blame the gun manufacturer. We don’t blame the cigarette, we blame tobacco companies. We don’t blame the customs agent, we blame the tuberculosis-infected individual who slipped through. Perhaps one day soon there will be a class-action lawsuit against all poets everywhere. For making poetry suck.

It’s helpful, too, then, that people across the country are asking poets why our poetry sucks so bad. Why are we wasting time with the lyric when we could be tittilating folks with filthy limericks and the like? And isn’t the haiku just so darling? With poetry like this, we could reel in both the WWF Smackdown audience AND all six people who were watching Men in Trees this year.

If poetry were more popular, perhaps we could encourage America’s most avid and widely-read readers to put down their Danielle Steele novels and try something new.

In all honesty, though, if I really were to choose some people to blame for people’s dislike (and distrust) of contemporary poetry, I’d look at the English teachers. The handgun-wielders. The cigarette smokers. The people who put poetry into action for young people, when attitudes and associations are formed about literary and poetry.

How many of us sat through classes where imagery was “decoded,” where symbols were “demystified,” “explained”? How many of us read actual living poets when we were school—or poems written before 1940? And it’s not even really the teachers’ faults, many of whom aren’t and will never be able to receive poetry as anything other than a set of tropes and codes, meter and rhyme, etc. That’s what they were taught. And education is, after all, catching.

And what about our textbook publishers, who select poetry that doesn’t connect to young people? The world is no longer as interested in writing by the Big White Guys anymore. Even white kids are tired of reading it. An effort to represent the poetry being written today would be more beneficial in raising poetry’s cultural quotient.

Billy Collins isn’t for everybody. Nikki Giovanni isn’t for everybody. But Billy is for some people, and Nikki is for some people, and for the rest of us there’s still an enormous widening gyre of poets and books to be read.

When people lament that only poets are reading poetry, it exposes their naievete. Of course we are. Because we know there’s so much good stuff out there. If you’re not reading poetry, there’s something wrong with you, not us.