A reporter for the Oshkosh Herald asked me, “What would you say to those people that don’t like poetry?”
I was sort of stumped. But I think it is an important question. It is a common response to poetry, and it took me a long time to come up with the following answer:
I don’t think people dislike poetry. They dislike their concept of poetry or the poetry they have been exposed to. And in return, they have not read or heard poetry that they might like.
Poetry comes in so many forms that one of those types would have to engage the most reluctant reader. The first example of poetry that is accessible is music. Lyrics are poetry.
Poetry can be high-brow with an intricate pattern. This is for poetry lovers that want to spend time with a poem and enjoy literary devices.
However, there are limericks and poems that fully engage in the fun of rhyming. And a vast array of poetry between these two extremes.
People that think they are too tough for poetry, might enjoy Charles Bukowski. His poetry is real and gritty. Honest and accessible.
You can be tough and still like poetry. Because it does not need to be gentle.
I am reminded of my friend Louis Clark. He scrambled through racism that was rampant in the factories he worked at, but he knuckled down and worked until he headed up a construction crew that worked on roads. The men really enjoyed the poems he would seal up and attached to the culverts they would put in. They were usually funny rhyming verses.
To me poetry is about history. History of a place or a culture. Personal poems are about a person’s history. Louis Clark’s poetry is about both. He has a book entitled, How to be an Indian in the Twenty-First Century. His first one was a chapbook entitled Two Shoes.
He wrote it for people to enjoy. He also wrote it to make his own journey accessible. Half polish, half Native American, he had to navigate both cultures.
Based on Louis’s poetry, I believe thar one poem a day can teach as much as a textbook.
Before people say no to poetry, they should look for poetry that is about their interests. There are poems about cars. There are poems and about sports. Any topic has produced poetry.
Is there anyone that does not have a song they find themselves singing along with when they hear it?
Perhaps the nonpoetry lover will always say no to poetry. That doesn’t mean it is not important to their lives. The national anthem is a poem. Short, funny limericks are poems. So many children’s books are written like a poem.