I recently attended a virtual online writer’s conference. Overall I was geeking out the whole time, just starry-eyed and amazed. I had my high pony-tail of perky ‘I am here to learn’ twisted too tight, my serious glasses on, and a large notepad and sharpened pencil. Boom. Teach me more about poetry!
Joy Harjo, my personal poet-crush (Nikita Gill I will always think you are the beginning, middle, and end of all things awesome you are a poetess and a kick-ass goddess of a writer). But Joy has moved into my love-fest as well. She played the saxophone and read her poetry in between sets and I fell in poet-love. She rocked the whole conference. Where can I buy ’I ❤️ Joy’ T-shirts? Anyone?
I joined a fair amount of poetry sessions which were both wonderful and informative and one or two that were sadly, deeply demotivating. Actually, it was just one. And it was eye-opening.
If Poetry Makes You Feel Less – You’re Reading the Wrong Kind
I can see now why people can be put off by poetry – through no fault of some of the obviously highly intelligent hosts with poetry both complicated and multi-layered, a small amount of it felt abstract and unattainable. I read a poem to get punched in the gut, not to wonder if I have brain damage, or if I’m too dumb or uneducated to understand it. (This coming from someone with a degree in psychology and literature.)
I feel like I should put up that disclaimer about ‘the columnists views and opinions may not reflect those of the studio, please be advised…’ I’m being completely honest here – and I hope I’m not offending anyone. If you write highly cerebral poetry – please continue to do so.
I attended a seminar on science and poetry and how they intersect and I found all those wonderful women to be approachable, with material both beautiful and meaningful. So, it isn’t ‘big words’ or even science as subject matter that threw me off.
Poetry Written To Impress
This is obviously highly personal – but one or two (okay it was the one) felt like they were trying to impress us with their writing methodology? With the ability to create metaphor and throw complex concepts around to prove how well-read, how intelligent, how obviously talented they were.
It was as if they were writing in code, and only those people with the right education and reading lists could know what they were saying. It’s this kind of ridiculousness that stops people from even trying to write poetry. And that makes me really mad.
Poetry Is For Everyone
Poetry should be accessible to everyone, and not just a select few sitting in ivory towers, passing poems back and forth in an endless closed loop of approval. Poetry should be guttural, immediate, the roar of a hungry bear at your door, the call of a wolf pack tugging at your wild soul to run and play. It should be the crying child, the growl of an alley-cat jumping to the top of a fence.
Poetry should bring that apple you’re eating into sharp relief, so you can taste it, so you can slow down. Poetry should be a tool for social change, sure, but also for every-day meditation. You should be able to write about the red leaf falling that reminded you of your grandfather who just passed. That’s what poetry is. It’s the connection of a moment in my life to a moment in yours and we can all feel that grief and know we are not alone. Good poetry connects and expands and brings the light and shadow of my heart to yours and reminds us we are all the same at our core. Not one of us better than the other.
Sonnets Are Hot
So just to be clear, I’m not talking about any specific form of the poetry. I attended an amazing seminar on sonnets and I am now super ‘hot’ for sonnets. I’m going to learn more about how to do it right so I can play around with this old-school form of poetry and I can’t wait – whoot!
I am at odds with the intention of the poem. If it’s just to prove how skilled you are – go learn a sport. Poetry is for artists and explorers and lovers. Wow I’ve just offended everyone who has ever played an organized sport. (Of which I am one! Field Hockey in grade school – hiyo!) I think you know where I’m going.
Poetry isn’t for preeners.
It’s for those of us who are pierced by the joy of a dog laughing in the sun. It’s for those of us who feel deeply, and need to use the plain black font to put some space between the world and our hearts. It’s for the playful, the grief-stricken, that community of souls who believe there is truth to be found at the end of a pen.
Good poetry won’t necessarily make you feel happier, but it will make you feel connected. In short, good poetry makes you feel more human, never less.
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Angela Yeh hails from Atlantic Canada but lives and works in Texas – after her liberal arts degree she wandered into Corporate America but managed to escape. She is a staunch advocate for writers and literacy/learning with her online writing community at DIYMFA.com. She also teaches a love of creative gardening to pre-k kids in her physical community. She lives with her husband, two lovely human children, and two cranky fur babies. You can check her out on Insta – @thatpluckygirl or at her website, www.thepluckycanadian.com