That’s just bullshit. Everybody reads poetry now. Or at least; I do. And I have never, and will never, consider myself a poet. I have no inclination whatsoever to write poetry, and I haven’t since I was a teenager, when I realised I was dreadful and it wasn’t my cup of tea. Simple as.
Of course, then, for about eight-ten years I walked around telling everybody I hated poetry. This was particularly galling for some as I was studying a Literature degree. Or at least I imagined it was. (‘Oh, how rogue-ish that young ball of curls is, studying literature and hating poetry and anything written before the first world war.’ *swoon*).
Anyway, poetry is fucking magic. It has an immediate impact with people. I admit that I work in a world of books, so it’s easier for me to find common ground, but I genuinely have friends and colleagues that will run up to me and slam a poetry book down in front of me, demanding I gorge on some tasty word truffle or other.
It was Prufrock what done it.
Discussion of a new Web 2.0 gimcrack about creating measurable outcomes in your life (and measuring them), made me cuss a beloved down with a wise about ‘measuring out your life in coffee spoons’. Which in turn made me re-read Prufrock.
I read it, and I was startled.
I read it again, out loud, to myself.
I found excuses to read it: to lovers (potential or otherwise), to an audience of strangers, to friends.
I fell utterly in love with that seamless, intricate passage of words. There’s an axis to that poem. A really mundane line about two thirds through, which whenever I read aloud I almost choke, because there’s so many ways to say it and so much locked within one simple phrase. ‘It is impossible to say just what I mean’.
For a while, I only had space in my heart for one. But once you’ve let one in, you’ve opened up a gateway to your soulness. Once you’ve started talking about the impact of those tiny words, the delicate, intricate arrangements of multifarious meanings, one on top of the other, you’ll find the readers. You’ll find people wanting to share their heartbursters.
Amanda Palmer made me check out ee cummings. I read it on the top of a mountain on the summer solstice, and it lit beacon hearts.
There’s a precision and subtlety (actual sharpness, like knives) in poetry that you can’t find elswhere.
Poets dissect. Not just language but life and hearts and everything.
If people don’t read it, it’s because they’re scared.
Or won’t tell you about how they expose their heart to the world.
That’s what I tell myself.
Prove me right please, universe.
Illustration by Jaime