You would think something as common and harmless as poetry would be an infantile step in the great pursuit of greatness for an English major. But alas, my English teachers who vigorously cheered me on throughout my childhood were either gravely misguided and I have absolutely no ability to pursue this major, or an evil sorcerer has conjured upon me the Great Calamity of Cursed Poetry. I strongly feel it is the latter, so if anyone sees any evil sorcerers lurking around, please let me know so I can beg freedom from this bewitchment.
Poetry is like the dark evil elephant in the room for me, sulking around the door of every English class as he sloppily slurps up his peanuts from a Ziploc bag. Poetry loves to wait for right when I am starting to feel like maybe, just maybe, I can understand a poem and then BAM! he knocks the pen out of my hand, overturns the desk and creates a maelstrom of cacophony with his violent lamentations. And then obviously with all that racket going on, any possible analysis of the symbolism in the poem I was desperately trying to understand is dashed to the wind, along with my grade for that class.
So, in summary, I suck at poetry. As a fourth-year English major with a creative writing minor and a deep love for reading, I feel like a walking failure to my own kind. My fellow majors laugh and talk cheerily on the way to class of how easy that last assignment was to write a simple haiku, their entire auras radiating sunshine and glitter like a nuclear blaster. And I trudge in wearily behind them, mumbling doggedly as I try for the eight-hundredth time to find a word that rhymes with esophagus. Why my brain picked the scientific name for my throat to use in a love poem I shall never know, but there it is, like a wad of gum stuck to the bottom of your new chanclas.
I think personally the absolute worst part about poetry is how performative it is. Do not get me wrong, I do enjoy performative literature in general because it is a form of art and theatre, but what I hate most in English classes is when we have to read our poems aloud for the class. At the beginning, poetry, the evil dark elephant, is just chilling in the corner, probably watching cat videos on his phone or peanut commercials. But after the second or third poem has been read, he gets to work. “Did you hear that?” he whispers to me. “Her poem was so good; it incorporated all the requirements and also did that super hard syllable thingy!” I feel my already-wavering confidence in my own poem plummet. “And can you believe that poet? I mean, he is so gifted! His poem uses such elegant words and he talks of his life experiences so beautifully. Wait, what was your poem about again? Because I think your theme is pathetic compared to that masterpiece.” By this point, I have shrunken as far as I can into my chair, hoping I will somehow transmogrify into plastic or a tornado will strike before I have to read my pathetic jumble of words.
I honestly do not know why poetry is so goddamn hard for me. I think it is partially because it is less easily classifiable and has such open boundaries to what is considered a poem. Someone could write an entire book of poetry that has over 80 stanzas and someone else could write just two lines, and they are still valued the same. Sometimes people read aloud to me the tiny feelings and emotions they have captured on scraps of paper and I feel so inspired by their poetry. And other times I sit down to a formal poetry reading from a greatly celebrated author and feel nothing.
I believe poetry is all about the human experience; about reflecting on your own life and where you fit into this world as well as projecting onto the future any emotions you may still hold from the past. Poetry is a place in which the imagination is set free to roam around and narrate with liberty how it views things like love, loss and wonder. I would love to one day be able to share my perspective on humanity, on what it means to be human and how I view my role in this world before I die, all beautifully laced in the intricate setting of a poem.
Maybe poetry will always be a dark scary elephant who hides in the corners of my mind and taunts me. But I hope for myself, and anyone else out there who may have a dark evil sloth or maybe a horrid raging goldfish roaming around their minds, that one day poetry may seem a little less like a trial by fire, and more like a true expression of self.