May 14, 2010

the poetry problem, part i.

In honor of National Poetry Month, and mostly just because I thought it would be a fun writing exercise, I posted 140-character poems on Twitter in April. I tried to post one each day, but this was my first experience making my poetry public and I didn't want to post mediocre poems on days when nothing good came. The format had an effect similar to attempting haiku, in that the language has to be really concentrated in order to make an impact in so little space. I also found that the nature of the medium impacted the kind of writing I did for this project: the poems passed through the Twitter feeds of my followers pretty quickly, and I tried to write about moments that felt just as ephemeral.

A happy consequence of this writing was that friends saw the poems, and this provoked conversations about poetry that may not have happened otherwise. An upsetting consequence was that most of the people who talked to me about poetry were not generally readers of poetry, though some of them wished they were.

This is the depressing thing about poetry: Almost no one thinks that poetry is for them. And that's wrong! Poetry is for you. It's written for you, especially. It's just that there are some barriers coming between you and poetry that you haven't figured out how to get around yet. Let's work on that.

The first problem is that poets don't even read poetry anymore. Are you listening, poets who do not read poetry? Good. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Poetry is not all about you, this is not the you show, where you get to put your work out there and expect people to read it and pay attention to it when you aren't even up on what your peers are writing. Go pick up an anthology--a recent one--and read some poems. Subscribe to a journal. When you like a poem, write down the name of the poet and take it with you to a bookstore. If they haven't stocked the book, ask them to order it. They might order extra copies, and then the next time a forlorn teenager is browsing the poetry section, bam! you just introduced them to a provocative up-and-coming poet who might make being a teenager more bearable for them. Problem solved.

So that was an easy one. Next time, I'll tackle something harder. I'm invested in getting you to read poems, because I think reading poetry is truly an enriching hobby that will make your life better.

Until then, go read my poem, which was recently published in Chaparral.

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