Love it or hate it: Poetry

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

Love itPoetry is using a little bit of words to say a lot. They just have to be the right words. Song lyrics are poetry. Rude bathroom graffiti is poetry. And then there are those great poets of human history, who express more in one verse than most of us will successfully say in a year. Many are dead. But this doesn’t prevent their words from reverberating through time.

Poems can gift you lovely, quotable captions for the all-important Instagram post. Rumi is a classic choice. Try: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.”

Poems encapsulate nature in a way neither you nor I ever could. Tony Hoagland wrote, “A little dogwood tree is losing its mind; overflowing with blossomfoam, like a sudsy mug of beer; like a bride ripping off her clothes, dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds.”

Poems are the simplest, searing descriptors of break-ups. Mark Strand wrote, “We have done what we wanted. We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry of each other.”

Poems are even better descriptors of love. Frank O’Hara asked, “What good does all the research of the Impressionists do them when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank?”

Poems explain who we are without the need for context, resolution or verbosity. Pablo Neruda wrote, “My soul is like an empty carousel at sunset.” Who hasn’t felt that way?

Anya Jaremko-Greenwold Hate itIt’s kinda weird, me hating poetry, given that I have a graduate degree in creative writing, 65.7 percent of my friends are poets, that I created a literary journal of humor and published poetry, that I’ve written a decent amount of poetry for a non-poet and that one of the best poets I know once called me “a poet at heart.”

I get it. And I still hate poetry.

Talk about a literary genre that has become so stodgy, lifeless, irrelevant, out of touch and lacking energy. Slam poetry! Now that’s some poetry I can dig. Because that’s where the energy is; that’s people actually saying something that matters.

As opposed to this other nonsense, people stringing together words in an attempt to be, well, all poetic, hiding meaning, obscuring emotion, saying what you’re trying to say by being all mysterious and elusive. Why are you making me work so hard to figure out what you’re trying to communicate? Knock it off! Just come out and say what you’re trying to say.

My favorite is when poets get up to read a poem and they give you a five-minute introduction to a 15-line poem, explaining their motivation, the thing that led them to write the poem, how it came about. And then they read it and I’m like, “Your story about the poem was way more enlightening and entertaining.”

Maybe someone should write a poem about that.

David Holub


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