Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Don't Write any More Poetry

A Famous Poet
The problem with poetry is that as a commodity, it's something plenty of people want to produce but very few people want to purchase.  There's already a huge supply of poetry out there, in chapbooks, bound leather volumes, and wrinkled, dog-eared spiral notebooks underneath teenage girls' mattresses.  Trillions of pages of it, and so few fanatical readers.

The question you have to ask yourself as an amateur poet is "Have I read all the poetry that's out there yet, and if not, why am I adding to that great towering heap of Unread?"  Now, if you write poems just as therapy to give release to your deepest feelings, by all means do what you do.  No one wants you to commit suicide or reveal your secret crush, so if it helps you to express it and put it under your pillow, no one's judging.  But if you write in order to be read, that is, if you intend to communicate something to someone else, you should probably take stock of what's already been said, and how, before you try to find your voice.

A Famous Poet
I know, I know, that'll take like forever, even just to read the good stuff.  First, you have to memorize all of Shakespeare's sonnets, then dig into Wordsworth and Byron and Shelley and ee cummings and Maya Angelou and Baudelaire and Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson, and you're just getting started on the rock stars.  Then there are thousands of amazing writers who are less anthologized, and you'll need to at least skim over the life's work of each of them, then go back and do some serious research on the ones which were your favorites.  Then you have to subscribe to some contemporary poetry journals and figure out what all the modern voices are saying, and check out the internet, where there are thriving poetry communities, and then decide whether hip-hop counts or if adding electronic beats to your poetry is cheating.  In the meantime, the muse on your back will have to hold the reins because you don't want to start writing and come off as derivative, a constant danger when you're immersing yourself in other people's work.  Finally, after a few decades of research and contemplation, you may be ready to put your first word to the page, if you can still lie to yourself that there's something to be said that hasn't been said, and that you are the talented bastard to say it.

A Famous Poet
In fairness, the same thing applies to novels... how many novels come out annually?  Reviewers can't even review all the books they're sent in a year, much less read all the older ones they wish they had time for, and they're paid to read them.  Maybe we as consumers should tell companies that they should stop publishing new books, and stop making new movies and TV shows, and stop issuing CDs of new music, so we can catch up on what's already been done.  Have you tackled The Iliad lately?  It's held up pretty well.  Let's all commit it to memory, and recite it around campfires, and forget all this newness.  There is already more media in existence than all of us together could read, watch or listen to in all of our combined lifetimes, so we can stop pretending to be cool and modern and on top of things.

Oddly, though, none of these notions applies to blogs.  Except poetry blogs.  If you write a blog, I recommend you put on tunnel-vision goggles and keep plugging away, pounding it out, oblivious to all the other blogs that are out there.  Masturbate in public four or five times a week, as often as you can handle it.  It's what the world wants.  Just keep telling yourself "The people demand that I continue to give them masterpieces". 

***Mister Mirror*** Please link to us on your blog or website. http://mistermirror.blogspot.com/

1 comment:

  1. there are already a lot of people talking in the world. maybe i should listen to everything everyone else is saying before i talk. there are an awful lot of people breathing air. maybe i should figure out what air they're breathing, so i know what's left for me.