10 Reasons People Hate Poetry

March 25th, 2013 by

I recently stumbled across a post on a website by a poet who has decided to walk away from poetry. It’s a lengthy post, and one which you can read (later, perhaps?) here, but it got me thinking about those who don’t and have never held love for poetry.

I’ve met some people who are apathetic towards it, some who really have little or no interest, and some who seem to hate all that it stands for and roll their eyes at those who identify themselves as part of it. So, with all those disinterested people in mind, I present this list as a guide to why people aren’t as loved-up as the rest of us. Why people hate poetry.

  1. Lack of exposure: Hell of a claim this, but many just don’t realise what they’re missing out on. Those who enjoy poetry find it just as important as other literature, music, art, and film. How some get by without it who knows, but they’ve not been affected by poetry and so don’t really care. Perhaps we should recite some ‘This Be The Verse’ by Larkin to really…hmm, engage them (They fuck you up, your mum and dad…).
  2. Poets give poets a bad name: While at university, I attended some open mic events put on in part by a particularly well-loved tutor. At these events there were guest poets (likely filling their days by travelling the wilds of mid-Wales in camper-vans, and hoping for some renown as modern bards). One such poet recited the most mind-numbing and self-indulgent of pieces I’ve ever heard. He did this while wearing a beret and a tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows. Without irony. Polite applause and sideways looks followed his lengthy reading.
  3. Non-attendance at poetry nights: If people attend a poetry night, or even chance upon a bar where an open mic event occurs while they’re in proximity, they risk becoming ‘one of those people’ (that is, people who have willingly attended a poetry night). People who do are usually wide-thinkinig, accepting, friendly and engaging, but the prospect terrifies many. Given the choice they would rather be caught at a Karaoke event singing ‘Love In An elevator’ to their friends’/partners’/own parents. A sadness this, they might actually enjoy what they hear.
  4. Over-attendance at poetry nights: However, like many delightful things, it is possible to gorge on poetry events. I’ve done it. Go to too many and people may recognise attendees as those who always arrive alone and never read work. If that doesn’t worry a person, then sheer over-exposure will likely result in them becoming beaten down. Particularly if The Chat Standard or an equally tiring style keeps rearing its ugly head. Too much is never too good.
  5. They’re bitter, ‘failed’ poets themselves: What’s a ‘failed poet’?
  6. They’re forgetting one of their senses: Poetry can be heard and read (and touched for the blind), so if someone tires of poetry nights or listening to others read their own work they should change it up. Reading a favourite poet in the safety of one’s own home might be a tonic. Equally, if the mind’s voice gets too much, break out and attend a poetry event. Poetry can be both contemplative and relaxing as well as live and engaging.
  7. Ignorance of poetry around them: Mike Skinner of The Streets writes a kind of poetry (or at least he did, though his place in the public consciousness has somewhat slipped. Linton Kwesi-Johnson uses music to amplify his work. And Scroobius Pip was a poet before he ever met Dan le Sac. Poetry is more than what we’re taught. It’s more than what people ascribe to it. I believe it’s a part of thought. But less philosophically, reading lyrics often uncovers poetry. Sometimes when reading film-scripts too.
  8. The education effect: That some are lucky enough to be taught poetry in schools can deaden the thrill of it. The topics covered – and tutor teaching the subject – can put people off of poetry for life. Clearly this doesn’t mean all poetry is bad. I pretty much ignored my Music GCSE and thought it a pest and unnecessary evil. It doesn’t mean I can’t have a conversation about Brit-pop, nor does it devalue my love of Biffy Clyro’s variety. I’m even try to play guitar!
  9. There’s no money to be made: In the 21st century, and Western world, we seem drawn to celebrities and those who are rich and/or famous. Poets are rarely either and so we give them little time, and then count them of little worth. It’s sad, but love is lacking for an art-form with little in the way of glamour, but much in the way of humility and conversation.
  10. It’s not poetry, it’s them: Try all you like, but some just aren’t interested. Poetry isn’t for them. Nonsense of course, they’ve just not found any they can connect with.

So that’s that. I think I’ve covered everything. It’s quite possible I haven’t, in which case feel free to post your ideas in the comments below.