Often I have wondered if self-help groups that deal with phobias could be formed around the “anonymous” idea. Sort of like the AA/NA groups.
Hello, my name is Rosemary and I am a shop, craft, book, choco, film -aholic.
It would be great! No one wants to admit their fears any more than an addiction. Groups could gather together and share in the same sort of safe-space as the -aholics. Except it would be -phobes.
Hello, my name is Rosemary and I am a Poetry-phobe.
Yes, I’ll confess it here to the great wide gaping electronic masses since there is no PA (Poetryphobes Anonymous). Just remember this is all confidential, ok? I am afraid of poetry.
Years ago I had a refrigerator full of poetry. I mean, of course, magnetic poetry. These tiny slivers of lodestone printed with words gave me hours of joy. They strike me now as a verbal equivalent of disposable cameras or those little all-inclusive crafting kits in bargain book sections of the mega book marts. Cute but not very substantial.
But oh how I loved them! I used to think that if I ever wrote a memoir I would call it My Poetry Is Magnetic. It would have to be published by No. 2 Pencil Press. There is no real danger of this ever actually occurring, so do not bother coming up with apologies for not pre-ordering.
Eventually, all those tiny words ended up in the trash. Stuck together in little clumps, huddled and clinging to one another in their abandoned state and smashed between wet coffee grounds and half empty take out containers. I don’t exactly remember why I threw them out. Probably because some boyfriend made fun of me. Maybe there was some sort of passive-aggressive content by which he was offended and he retaliated with jeering sneers. Maybe I thought it was time to put such cutesy things behind me.
Or perhaps I saw quite clearly that I was not then nor would I ever be a poet and the esoteric delft braiding of words into such a beautiful creature as a poem was as far beyond my fingers as weaving a spider’s web. In defense, I built a wall between me and Verse and said, ‘I don’t understand this.’ I made my own sneering snarks about my lack of ability to become a beret wearing emo girl and, therefore, could never relate to poetry. You see, unchecked consumption of poetry might lead to attending readings in darkened clubs where ultra hip people dressed in all black and lit by a single spotlight recite deeply emotional renditions of their grocery lists composed in iambic pentameter or a series of haiku extoling the virtues of some obscure facet of their intense and dramatic lives.
But the truth is I am afraid of it. I stand before Poetry as a wet-behind-the-ears kid bearing a crinkled lunch bag stands before the school on the first day of the first grade imagining all manner of terrors that lie behind the doors. It is risky. It bears the hallmark of vulnerability. Poetry is, frankly, fraught with danger and the mysterious unknown rhythms with which I do not wish to engage in an undue familiarity. What if I accidentally liked bad poetry? I mean really bad poetry that should be obvious to all hearers is complete drivel and I, in my ignorance, might not realize it. What if I [gasp] wrote a poem and it truly was a horrid thing that left me standing, wounded, open handed and open mouthed before the wizened worldly ones experienced in the gnostic methods of verse who cackled mercilessly at my foolishness?
No. I am safe here behind my wall of not understanding.
A few months ago I accidentally read some poetry. It was not on purpose. When I bought the book, the guy at the bookstore said, “you’ll like it.” Was that some kind of warning or a dare? “Oh, it’s not for me,” I said, reaching out to touch that old familiar safety barrier between me and Poetry. “It’s a gift. I don’t understand poetry.” Then it happened. I was stuck at the laundromat and had forgotten to bring the book I’d been reading. In semi-desperation I opened the only one I had. It was a book of Ron Rash’s poetry titled Waking. Who on earth writes a poem about a fish whose name means “ugly pike” (the muskellunge)? Or about men cleaning their fingers with pocket knives and wearing grooves into porches with their rocking chairs? I guess he does. And it was good. At least in my small world once lined with magnetic words, it was good.
Then I actually went to a poetry reading. I have no idea how I ended up going because I never remember saying I’d be there. But there I was. Not a beret in sight. The room was brightly lit. The woman who read was just about as far from emo as I am. (For the record, I doubt Rash has ever donned a beret either.) It was so…… normal. I thought maybe it wasn’t real poetry. After all, I kinda liked it and I don’t understand poetry so there must be something amiss. No, I learned from an objective source, it was indeed real poetry and pretty good at that.
I have to be cautious now so that I don’t accidentally end up at another poetry event. However, I have conceded to an invitation to attend one in the future. So far I’ve felt no urge to don any kind of French headwear but at the first sign of this, I will run away as fast as my legs will carry me! I may have read another book of poetry, too, but I’m not ready to confess that just yet.
I still don’t understand poetry…. but maybe I don’t have to.