Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Confession

I like to read poetry.

It's dangerous to admit in public. Poetry is one of those things that has a reputation. Suicidal women and sexually ambiguous men using big words and taking liberties with grammar.

If I do admit, publicly, that I read poetry purely for the pleasure of it, I'm usually gonna get the stinkeye. Sad fact is, outside of certain circles, people believe it's pretentious. Like admitting you read Moby Dick for fun. Nobody does that. I must be putting on airs. Because nobody actually likes poetry.

On occasion, when I do manage to find myself in a hipster enclave where perusal of poetry (and one's own poetical aspiration) is de rigueur, I just end up embarrassed. It's safer to pretend I've never read a poem in my life than it is to say that I like Bukowski ("Passé.") or Adrienne Rich ("Cliché.") or have my shallow knowledge of modern poets condescended to.

So it remains mostly a secret pleasure, like masturbation.

I take out the confections of the poets that appeal to my plebeian taste and I roll around in an orgy of literary ecstasy, like a dog on his back in freshly mowed grass. I coat myself in it, every pore. I inhale until the words fill the alveoli of my consciousness.

Once in a very rare while, I meet someone else as ignorantly enthusiastic as myself. For a few moments, breathless, as fast as we can talk (or type):
"Have you read..."
"You've gotta try..."
"... is amazing."

I started this post a while ago. Before dinner and a nap. I almost forgot where I was going.

Don't worry, I remembered.

As I quietly, secretly read lit journals and online zines, the corners frequented by the poets that are still working day jobs and self-publishing their own chapbooks, the great New York bastions of the poets who've Made It with stipends and poet-in-residence positions, there's a common discussion that always crops up.

"Why," poetry people lament, "does no one read poetry? How do we make it accessible?"

Maybe it's the apparent impenetrability. Maybe it's the psychic scars of premature sonnets. I've got no answers.

Poetry seems a style of writing peculiarly suited to the way we live our lives. Brief, more often than not, condensed meaning packaged for quick consumption. Three minutes in a bank line, fifteen in the doctor's office, half an hour on the train or bus or in motionless gridlock.

Last night I said to Em, "Remember when, if you wanted something to read, you had to go out and get a physical object and bring it home?"

It seems so antiquated. Now, the words are all around us, floating in the ether, waiting to be plucked down and tucked into the crevices of our lives.

Why not poetry?

And between those of us with more enthusiasm than education in these things:

"Have you read Hot Mamas and Little Gangstas by Kyle Hemmings? Or Avenue C?"
"You've gotta try Adam Coates!"
"Kristine Ong Muslim is amazing."