News Flash: Poets in their soul of souls know a lot of poems stink

The secret is out. Poets in their soul of souls don’t like a lot of poetry.

A month of Sundays ago, over at J. Lynn Sheridan’s poetry blog, Writing on the Sun,  was a breezy post called, Secrets from a Poet. She began an occasional series on why people don’t like to read poetry. As I suspected and Sheridan confirmed, many if not most people experience poetry as a gigantic bag of wind.

The week before she posted that her husband had admitted he didn’t like poetry and she wanted to know why. She posted his reasons: “It doesn’t make sense.” “He doesn’t understand it.” “It’s boring.” She also included many comments from readers who share their reasons for their poetic antagonisms. Then, she did the unexpected, the improbable and the shocking. She admitted that even she, a poet herself, not only sympathizes with these sentiments but that a whole lot of poetry leaves her less than inspired. I couldn’t agree with her more.

Poetic false steps

Sheridan listed her poetic complaints: too sentimental, too inauthentic, too preachy, too ambling. This is a good summing up of some basic complaints. I might add my pet peeve here: too clichéd. Poems made of trite comments or overused words or well-worn phrases and ideas past their prime are guaranteed to disappoint. Banality is with us in daily life and speech. We don’t need it in poetry. To put is another way, there are too many hamburgers on too many menus.

One of the things we go to poetry for is language shorn of rot. Pulp wood is not good for trees or for firewood or for paper making or for making poems, (though apparently the food industry has convinced cracker makers that we can eat it). Poets should remain vigilant and keep pulp out of their poems or the paper their poems are written on will quickly end up a fresh sheet of blank paper or a tasteless cracker.

Though I would never say never use a cliché or overused word in a poem, for fear some smartypants poet will pull one out of his drawers, like these guys (Billy Collins, Sir Westy West), and do something novel with it. The point is a poet invigorates language with new and novel associations. No one likes breathing stale air and, to belabor the point, no one who is alive ever breathes the same air twice. Why should a poem?

So how many clichés can you find in this post?

How often do you find yourself using a cliché in daily speech?

What is your complaint about poorly written poetry?

Let me know
what you think.
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