I don’t read enough poetry

Published on 20 June 2023 at 07:31

I’m starting this post with something big for a self-acclaimed poet: I really don’t read that much poetry. I used to. I actually used to read a LOT of poetry. I had a daily poem email from Poets.org that I would read every morning on my hour-long bus ride to school, alongside Maria Popova’s The Marginalian (at that time called Brain Pickings) and Austin Kleon’s "10 things to share this week." I enjoy all these things dearly, I just don’t take the time to read them very often anymore. I want to pour myself into that Edgar Allen Poe Collection on my shelf, but I usually just pass by it on the way to make dinner in the kitchen. The closest I get anymore is scrolling by Mr. Kleon’s pretty pool-side shots on my Instagram feed. Honestly though, I think that’s okay...they really are lovely photos.

I’ve had this topic idea for a month now before sitting down to write it, and that’s mostly because I’m struggling with how to write it. At first, I wanted this to be a revival within myself: if I have to write on this topic, that means I have to read poetry to then suggest the idea to others who also don’t read poetry. But it’s been a month and that has not happened. It’s not going to happen. I have a ten-minute car ride to work, then work, eat, work, drive home, do school, and then do at-home things. Could I make time? Yes. Could I also pay actual attention to my animals? Also yes. So long story short, that is not what this post is going to be. I am not going to try and coerce you into reading random poems you don’t know a thing about (or maybe you do, idk). Instead, I’d like to suggest an idea: maybe I’m trying to read the wrong poetry and that’s why I can’t stick to it.

There is something about the word poem that puts us in a certain frame of mind. Poetry doesn’t belong in a box, but we do put it in a frame. That’s why not all lyrical songs are poems, not all poems rhyme, and not all rhymes are poetry. I think there is an obvious frame, but our frames hold different pictures. Your picture might look more like the heartfelt Instapoets who pour they're soul into every word, while mine has actually become animated life and is dancing around in Dr. Suess’s Whoville. That is OKAY. Please be moved by the poetry you read. I will be here drawing in crayons all over my picture and probably the wall too. I’ll have you here with the Magic Eraser when I’m finished.

It’s just something about the fact that what I tend to think other people are calling poetry is not really my style. I want to learn about it, but it just can’t be my everyday thing. I need the weird stuff like Tim Burton’s The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy to be the thing gracing my inbox. I want The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb by Heinrich Hoffmann and The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams. I want to know that Mr. Hoffmann was not rubbing his hands together when creating new ways for parents to scare their children, but rather mocking the rigid societal norms around upbringing during his time. I want to read more poetry, but I need my style of poetry. I want to feel mostly intrigued, a bit passionate, and less often (but occasionally) deep when I read poetry. The general categorization of poetry is something I would love to get into one day for this reason - so I can find these things when I look for them. 90% of the content that I take in right now is not poetry or short stories or books. It's 6-8 frame comic strips about life with a little twist. That's where I am in my reading right now.

Nevertheless, poetry is an art form I want to be involved in from all aspects and I think to do that I need to take some time and find the authors that I really get into. Where that time is? Not a clue. But I want to find it. And I want to find people who speak to me on my level. Because poetry isn’t just old guys with a pen. It’s weird and quirky and messed up old guys with a pen. Reducing myself to what I think other people think just isn’t helpful, and it sucks the joy out of it for me. I get way too caught up with that non-existent box. I need to do some exploring. I was watching a documentary about the development of country singers through the decades at my husband’s grandma’s house with his family a while back and something on there really struck a chord for me.

Elvis’s daughter Lisa Marie (who passed away just this year) wanted to become a country/rock singer, like her dad. She went on tour with Elvis right after Highschool and shared this news with him. The first thing he asked was “do you know this song?” He played something, and she didn’t. So he played another, and she didn’t know it either. It really startled him that Lisa Marie wanted to jump into this industry with very little knowledge of its background, so he ended up giving her a whole education during that tour about the top country songs of the time and everything behind them. He gave her somewhere to start when she went on her way. I just feel like I could use that type of background here. I believe that the more I expose myself to authors I like, the more I’ll grow into my own style and write things that I like.

I want you to find something you like. Whatever your style is. Read it. Learn from it. Use it in what you make. Just enjoy it. You don’t necessarily have to read more than you already do, just find your niche and really get into it.

***Note: I am not affiliated with any of the external links in this blog post.

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Liberty Jensen • Writer

Liberty is a donations manager, finance student, and full-time drinker of coffee. She enjoys poetry, her cats, and spending time with her husband.

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