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10 Reasons


By Maria Alexander

Author of At Louche Ends: Poetry for the Decadent, the Damned & the Absinthe-Minded

First published in The Horror Writers Association Newsletter April 1, 2012

10 Reasons You HATE Poetry

So, I wrote a collection of poems that was published back in 2011 by Burning Effigy Press. Since then, the collection has gotten some attention including a Bram Stoker Award nomination and Ive been interviewed a few times. Ive discovered in the course of these conversations that a few themes keep cropping up: namely, what keeps people from reading poetry. And heres what I learned.


It intimidates you.
Im not sure when poetry grew the stubble and fists of

Jason Statham, but it intimidates a lot of people. Maybe its all those Shakespearean sonnets if thats what you think of when someone mentions poetry, Im sorry. Truly. Youre afraid you wont understand it, so you avoid it. I get it. I do. Have you tried a little Ambrose Bierce or even Neruda? I recommend avoiding the hard stuff and starting with

gateway poets. Because if you pick up any of those 17thcentury poets, youre bound to hurt your brain. Also? Theyre boring as all hell. Why would anyone put themselves through that kind of torture? You ask, But isnt William Blake, like, famous and stuff? Sure, but hes guaranteed to give you an intellectual concussion if youre not accustomed to the work of that era. Instead, pop the top on some more poets with more modern sensibilities and relax. Good poetry wont wear you down. It feeds your soul in a way that nothing else does.


It doesnt make sense.

Look at it this way. Some of you listen to some pretty

wacky musicians like Tori Amos, Kate Bush, The Cocteau Twins, Lisa Gerard, or even foreign bands like Rammstein or that crazy Jay-Pop chick with the big eyelashes. Or opera. You have no hope of ever understanding that lot, but you listen to them all the same. Its because you like the sound of the music, right? Think of poetry that way. Even if the overall concept doesnt click, youll like the music of the words and images. As T.S. Eliot once said thats the dude who wrote the poems that inspired the

10 Reasons You HATE Poetry

musical Cats, but please dont hold that against him Genuine poetry can communicate before its understood. That said, good poetry tends to make sense. Unless it was written in an era with a lot of fairly incomprehensible archaic references, it damn well should be understandable. If not, its probably shit. I mean, seriously, were trying to communicate, right? What good is it if its just a bunch of blather? None. None good, thats what.


Its bad.
Chances are, if youve been run over by a poem on Teh

Intarwebs, it left wide black tread marks on your forehead. The word awful doesnt begin to describe what hit you. This happens because people think poetry is easy to write. There are so few words involved, they think, Hey! I can do that! So they duct tape together a bunch of mismatched metaphors that proceed to lope out of quasi-stanzas like something from The Island of Dr. Moreau. They pepper their verses with words even they dont understand because they sound cool. And then they chop up the lines after every few words so that it looks good and poetical and stuff. But mostly they emote. Oscar Wilde once said that, All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. And if theres

10 Reasons You HATE Poetry

something amateur poets have, its plenty of genuine feeling. Multiply this times elebenty-hundred-thousands to the giga-power and that should give you some idea of your chances of finding something like this again on the Internets. No wonder you dont want to read poetry. The solution? Ask people you know who read poetry what they like. Get recommendations. If they say, My friend Arnie Humplegger who only publishes on his MySpace blog...But! Hes really, really gooood, back away quickly. Or, when someone hands your their Goth girlfriends self-published collection of verse entitled, Batwings and Other Black Things...RUN. But if they say, Shes been publishing for a while now, especially since she spent time at that Nicaraguan village during her Peace Corps days. Man, shes amazing! Chances are thats someone who has spent more time living in the world than gazing at their lint-clogged navel or checking every ten seconds to see if someone Liked their poem on Facebook.


Youve been told its bad.

Lets face it: Its not cool to read poetry. Your

badass friends who are into gorenography dont think its

5 10 Reasons You HATE Poetry

cool, either. They told you poetry sucks. Some of them might even have thick black tread marks on their foreheads. Or they were traumatized in college by reading Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder or Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Dont listen to your friends! Chances are they have Wordsworth Poisoning.


You have Wordsworth Poisoning. (Dont panic.

Its not entirely fatal.)

Many of us with a college education were traumatized by having to read William Wordsworth, the early 19thcentury poet famous for writing, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood. WARNING: READING THIS WILL KILL YOU.* If somehow you survived, the potential side effects of Wordsworth poisoning include headache, nausea, vomiting, blindness, deafness, and explosive diarrhea whenever cornered by a poem. These effects can last a lifetime and keep you from ever reading poetry again. And why would you? Getting drunk is more fun. At least the hangover results from having a good time rather than reading about The Pansy at my feet/Doth the same tale repeat.

Not Really.
10 Reasons You HATE Poetry


You have Bukowski Poisoning. (Also not fatal.)

Bukowski revolutionized poetry by adding vast

quantities of al-kee-hawl to his writing. Sometimes this worked and his poems were mind-bogglingly brilliant. And then sometimes it just looks like some fat-naked-drunk dude is shouting through his typewriter. Maybe you read one of his louder poems and wondered if all modern poetry read like a street brawl with nose bleeds and pissed pants. Or thought, Man! Modern poetry has a big case of The Weird. Or whatever. Like the tequila that you blacked out on, you wont touch it again.


Its the wrong poetry.

This kind of gets back to the poisoning bits. If your

first exposure to poetry back in the day had been something awesome say, Edgar Allan Poe, bawdy Baudelaire or, hell, some Bruce Boston circa 1990 in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine then you might have gotten a taste for great dark poetry.


Its for pansies.

On second thought, a little Bukowski poisoning might

be good for you. Or maybe a lot of regular poison.

7 10 Reasons You HATE Poetry


It forces you to concentrate.

Chaucer used to complain that poetry was difficult to

write. The life so short, the craft so long to learn. Just to be clear: the man who wrote The Canterbury Tales thought poetry was hella hard to write. Its as hard as anything else to write, if not harder, because theres so much weight on every word. As a result, reading a poem is much more like eating an amuse bouche or one of many courses at top-shelf restaurants like The French Laundry or LAtelier de Jol Robuchon. The dish might be small, but its exquisitely constructed, like an edible gem, with complex flavors that sing madrigals in your mouth. You fill up faster than youd think with each course, too, because the food is so rich. But people dont want to savor literary morsels. That requires too much concentration. They want to wolf down every paragraph like a Big Mac and just get to the good bits the gore, sex, midget wrestling, whatever. People prefer to skim rather than focus. Is it a byproduct of our electronic age or old-fashioned impatience? I dunno but too much MacDoo will give you a fat brain. Have a poem instead!

10 Reasons You HATE Poetry


Youre too goddamned sober.

Poetry isnt for people with a stick up their ass.

Its for people who have pulled the stick out of their ass. Its for the living, the drinking, the damned, the fighting, the lusting, the loving anyone who has opened their heart and had it knuckle-punched until it bled. Its for thinkers, believers, skeptics, and plotters. If you have no sense of humor, dont bother picking up a book of verse, because poets are pranksters. Yet you must let them steer, otherwise youll resist the ride and miss out on something wonderful. So pour yourself a cocktail, get comfortable, and starting loving it.

Maria Alexander is a fiction writer and poet who lives in Los Angeles with three ungrateful cats and purse called Trog. Review her literary rap sheet at

10 Reasons You HATE Poetry

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