What’s strange is that it’s the exact same reaction but for radically different things to different people. Some people eyeroll over science fiction. Fantasy. (Or maybe just high fantasy or urban fantasy or space opera or soft SF or hard SF.) Literary fiction. Or poetry.
There’s usually a good reason. A semester devoted to nothing but The Grapes of Wrath and squashing any joy out of it ruined literary fiction for me for quite a while. Crappy SF with “As you know, Bob”, dilithium deus ex machinas and cardboard cutout characters did it for others. Fantasy with generic elves, mass blocks of historical exposition and unpronouncable names, or the more modern variety with … sparkles.
Poetry, though, is almost always because of a teacher. Mine was one who insisted that it didn’t matter what a refridgerator in a William Carlos Williams poem meant to me; it was a symbol of sex and I had been reading it wrong.
That took decades to get over.
And there’s still plenty of examples of bad poetry out there. The Bad Goth Poetry exists for a reason. Poetry is one of those art forms that looks easy… but isn’t. At all.
And that’s true about all of those forms. You know this about the kind you like. There’s tons of great SF, fantasy without elves, exposition, or sparkling. Literature that’s not pretentious or navel-gazing. And there’s some damn good poetry out there as well.
Think about it this way: If you know that someone else is judging your favorite type of writing – and you know they’re basing their judgements on some unfair stereotype – aren’t the odds pretty good that your own stereotypes are just as bad?
As I’ve finally gotten over that sexy, sexy poetry fridge, I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to publish two poets. Both of their work has helped me learn to appreciate poetry for its own sake. While they are very different poets, they both have a clearness to their work that hides the mastery of language and emotion needed to do poetry well.
I keep quoting Lucy A. Snyder’s introduction to the book, because it summarizes it so well:
Some poems in this book gallop and kick. Some swerve elegantly
like an escape pod caught in a gravity well. Other roll quiet as a
child’s blanket. The words in these pages won’t seem the same each time
you read them. They will be just what you were looking for, but nothing
that you expected.
I come to you as someone who used to eyeroll at poetry – just like you might be now. And I thought I wouldn’t care for poetry.
These poets showed me what I was missing out on.
Check out An Inheritance of Stone at the official website or at your favorite online retailer. You’ll be glad you did.