Where for art thou poetry stigma

For those of you who’ve been following my posts, you’ve probably come to realize that I often talk about digital media within the context of health, beauty, fitness, and the occasional nail polish idea. These aren’t particularly offensive topics – at least I hope they aren't. That’s why I have been hesitant to talk about poetry, because once you throw that into the mix, people run for the hills and start occupying Wall Street, or worse, shaving Miley Cyrus mohawks in protest.

And understandably so – there is nothing safe about poetry. There is nothing comforting about it. There are no CP Style or AP Style guidelines telling you to do things a certain way. You could write % instead of per cent and get a round of finger-snapping applause while the audience at your poetry reading murmurs along to your free verse thing about hummingbirds at dawn and you will feel like you don’t deserve the praise because you invented your own writing rules, you went hard on that line enjambment, you inventimavized words, you went CRAY on spacing, your poem is to be read in a Norwegian­ accent, so how could you be right? Being objectively wrong about a syntax rule is soothing. There is no wrong in poetry, unless you're one of those angry kids in my former poetry workshops. 

Oddly enough, promising not to talk about poetry is only turning me into one of Freud’s little “repression leads to fixation” projects. I used to write poetry all the time, either to get published in anthologies or to tell my friends things that I was too shy to say sans the guise of obscure language. It was my platform of choice, my language, my Snapchat (ps: Snapchat is the worst but I use it religiously). Being a journalist and a poet is a difficult thing for many people to contend with because they pull at opposite sides of the brain.

You’re probably wondering, How can she tell my story accurately and fairly if she’s feeling so many feelings? This is a good hypothetical question. The tools I’ve learned as a poet have helped me immensely as a writer in that I’ve developed a linguistic fearlessness, almost a feeling of being invincible. More so, I think it’s helped me connect with people I talk to on a very human level. I get attached to the stories I write and the people I interview, but that’s because poetry has helped me care.

Even so, telling people I write poetry is often met with visceral reactions. It's like coming out of the closet. Eyebrows scrunch into unibrows, mouths go ajar, nostrils flare in panic. The digital age – aka all of society, aka our governing force – doesn't make the world very comfortable for poets. Every verse is a Survivor challenge and few of us get that Immunity (#TBT). People are threatened by its fluidity, its ability to emancipate both physically and spiritually. Incorporating SEO into poetry is not a thing, and the moment it is will be the moment it is tarnished forever.

In 2008, police arrested a Jordanian poet for incorporating verses of the Quran into his love poetry without approval of the Jordanian government. He was charged with harming the Islamic faith and violating the press and publication law for combining the sacred words of the Quran with sexual themes. If this weren't a fairly outdated example, I’d say that a breach of freedom of expression in this seemingly harmless manner (stemming from either political or religious sources) is a world I’m ashamed to be a part of. 

I hate to say “poetry is everywhere” because that is probably something I learned from Sesame Street, but it really is. Find your poetry. Do that one weird thing that totally conflicts with your career and make it work for you. We’re all anomalies. 

charles bukowski.jpg