So feel free to offer your thoughts. I have the skin of dead elephant.
Poetry... Just mentioning it conjures up images of lengthy assignments from an out of touch teacher who farts rhyme and dust. Maybe it brings to mind boring images of proclaimed love from one to another, ultimately lost on anyone else who reads it. Of course, there is the angsty teenage “my life sucks, suicide is the only solution” poem which no one gets except people who dress and look like Wednesday from the Addams Family. All of that can make the average person run away from poetry.
Poetry is mostly read by those who write it. Or so it seems. However, there is new breed of poet. The type of poet that screams to be read, but does not study or read other poets.
This breed is a pox on those of us who identify ourselves as poets. They are the people who flood the internet with some of the most godawful poetry ever. The real poets that I know and the dead poets (yeah, I just did that) all studied other poets and are /were inspired by them.
Now, I do not claim to be a great poet; nor do I claim to even be a good poet. I have written some shitty poems. Most of these have been written in a drunken stupor. After sobering up and reading the drunken scribbles I had enough mercy on myself and others to discard the poem into the trash, hoping it is not found on an archaeological dig some thousands of years later.
But I do have a list of poets I read on a regular basis. Great Poets. I don't just read them. I study their form. Let's face it, all good poets have form. I like to see how words are used, played with, manipulated into something that has the power to move the soul. The mental picture that I have had for years is that of the poet as a blacksmith; pounding out words with a hammer and the sweat of their brow. Poetry is a work that can drain a spirit and kill the faint of heart.
That brings me to a recent phenomenon. That of the internet poetry chatrooms and Facebook groups. Let me say that I do not think there is anything wrong with these sorts of forums. What I have a problem with is that there is no criticism of some really bad poetry. It's less a forum to make one a better poet and more some cyber circle jerk where everyone is a winner. It is in these forums where I find the the pimple on the ass of poetry.....the poet who does not read other poets..even the ones they are reading in the forums. These “poets” frequently post things like, “Great poem dude” and “Loved it” mere seconds after someone posts the poem. No, they are there for one thing only. And that is praise for mediocre, at best, poetry. I must warn you though, do not offer anything other than praises. The first time you tell these fragile punks that “hmm, did nothing for me” you are turned into the administrator for possible banishment.
Thin skinned little pricks if you ask me.
Years ago, before the internet made the submission process faster, I submitted a couple of poems to some editor in New York. During that time I had been submitting everywhere. One day I went to the mailbox and inside was a letter from this editor. I was expecting a form rejection letter. What I found, after opening the letter, was a handwritten note:
What in the hell was that? May I suggest that the next time you send anything that you first use a type writer. Your handwriting looks like it was written by a skid row drunk. Secondly, if you want to be a poet please take the time to read other poets. After reading, okay, deciphering your scribbles, I can see that you have heart and quite possibly potential. However, what you submitted is shit. When you get serious please send it my way. Until then save your postage money for something else.
Mr New York Editor
I will always remember that letter. I do not remember even sending to that guy. He had the decency to not return whatever it was I submitted. That period in my life was spent drunk and what not. It was common for me to get drunk, write a few poems and send them to some editor I found in the back of writer magazines. I had a lot of rejection letters. Still do. Now, when one bites I feel a little apprehensive; as if it is some sort of cosmic joke. I wouldn't have it any other way. It is much better to have people tell what they think than to have them lie to you.
So to you little emotionally needy poets out there blowing smoke up one anothers asses my advice is this: grow a pair and read some other poets.
What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon. In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations! What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes! --and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons? I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys. I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel? I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective. We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier. Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour. Which way does your beard point tonight? (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.) Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely. Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automo- biles in driveways, home to our silent cottage? Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe? - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15306#sthash.DcxSJlW8.dpuf
© Charles Scott 2014