Written in Ink
Written in Ink
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Death To Poetry.

Illustration for article titled Death To Poetry.

Poetry is something I'm loath to encounter. In public school, it was briefly examined each year as a standardized component of our literary education. I was forced to participate in round-robin readings of America's greatest poet and playwright, Shakespeare, Emily Elizabeth Browning and friends. We were given a vocabulary on a paper platter and told to anatomically dissect selections of classic verses, joylessly skimming meaning from each passage. The lesson plans never intended us to stray far from the anthologies that progress anemically between editions. Poetry needs to be taught; that's how it seems when I crack open the one yellowed paperbackf of poetry on my shelf and find the book equally unreadable open or shut. In that aspect and every other we were failed.


Flopping open an entire magazine of cleanly-formatted and carefully-edited text is a pleasure. I could sit down and read all 100 pages at once in a comfy spot. But the editors of any reputable print magazine feel the pleasure of reading short stories and narrative non-fictions incurs a blood debt, one paid off by suffering the poetic exhibitionism in the beef of the volume, a hamburger that can only be ordered with tomatoes. (This is a clumsy metaphor so you have to imagine you must eat the tomatoes or else your family will be killed. Al-Qaeda does not play around.)

I've often what it would be like to read a book that could only be fully comprehended by a perfectly-bilingual individual. If you were to write each half of a book in a different language and split the translations alike, no single copy could be understood on its own: Pevear and Volokhonsky's War and Peace without the footnotes. In my family books were not read for pleasure except by my grandmother on occasion, nor was I formally taught Spanish. The only verses I knew at home were from the Bible, or nursery rhymes about lost Chinese women and ingenious tadpoles. Poetry, like Spanish, was something brought out of the closet to check off the list of Sunshine Standards.


I no longer want to be ashamed of my involuntary ignorance. I no longer want to be afraid of opening a magazine for fear of making eye contact with the dreaded beast. When I read a block of text aloud, I desire the freedom to give it my own contours and my own meaning in voicing it, without following an invisible score of stress and pitch no modern person of midbrow culture should be forced to learn. And poets should be ashamed of their life's work being exploited as a pretty bouquet of words on the wallpaper. Until poetry is eradicated from the surface of the Earth like rabies or smallpox, here is one of the good poems to while away the time.

The wayfarer,

Perceiving the pathway to truth,

Was struck with astonishment.

It was thickly grown with weeds.

"Ha," he said,

"I see that none has passed here

In a long time."

Later he saw that each weed

Was a singular knife.

"Well," he mumbled at last,

"Doubtless there are other roads."

Illustration for article titled Death To Poetry.

Photo credit to Moeko for Transition, Chris Ballard for Freedom.

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