Intellectual Starvation by Poetry (or My Friends the Poets)
I’ve thought of myself as a writer since I was 16. This occurred largely when I realized that English classes and creative writing and such were the only things I was good at. I did the most I could with the skill and went on to college to get a degree in English. Living in a new state for the last two months and looking for a job makes me wish my guidance counselor had told me that such a degree was worthless, but we’ll save that story for whenever the monthly theme is “Unemployment Sucks.”
In college, I began to gravitate toward hanging out and swapping thoughts and ideas with other writers. Anyone who is a regular reader of this site sees the work of two of my best friends on a regular basis, along with my own contributions: Kail (a college acquaintance who has become like my brother over the last 12 years) and Sam (the person who brought me to 30POV by using me as a blog subject, then wouldn’t stop harassing me until I joined the staff).
Kail and I met at a small college where we were the lead members of the campus literary magazine. As you can probably imagine, there was a lot of poetry submitted for this publication, which is understandable. If you’re good at it, poetry can be profoundly moving. What I found in my time as an editor of this magazine, is that I don’t “get” poetry. I can appreciate it artistically, but in most cases, any meaning that the author has beyond that which is explicitly on the page is lost on me. I can prattle on about the deeper meanings behind most prose works, but ask me to dissect a couple of poems and you’ll be lucky if you get more than “There’s words on a page in a couple of lines” out of me.
It’s a flaw of mine, this lack of understanding, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. My own attempts to produce poems usually result in angry rants on the page (because I am inherently a sarcastic asshole) or overly puerile and formulaic attempts to sound deep (because when I have no clue what I’m doing, I retreat to the basic shit I was taught in school). I would find it easier to write a 1,000 page novel than to construct a coherent five line poem.
I met Sam a few years later through a friend of of a friend and we hit it off instantly. I was excited to meet someone who taught English on the college level, and we had many discussions about literature over the years. Still, I’ve checked out of any of our conversations when poetry was brought up. I hope she never noticed.
I guess my point is that not everyone with an English degree is guaranteed to get a lot out of poetry. Some of us just smile and nod at the amazing work of others, and hope that we’ll someday be able to say, “I knew them before they were famous.”