Not all poetry is good. I know this and it becomes more apparent to me every day, especially on today, Bad Poetry Day. Earlier this summer, I received Directing Herbert White as a 21st birthday gift (a gag gift, let’s be clear,) and after reading a few of the poems inside, it made itself known to me as one of the more unholy gashes marring the pelvis of the literary community. Mr. Franco waxes poetic (literally) and hides behind literary pretension and the persona of a jaded Hollywood wunderkind in an attempt to fool his reader into thinking that his uninspired, uninteresting ramblings are real poems. If they were 140 characters, it might be okay. If Franco didn’t leech off a real poet with real vision, it might be okay. But that’s not the case here.
Your ivy-guilded Masters in bullshit or whatever means less than nothing to me, Franco. I’m not a narcissist with a penchant for teenies, and therefore, I can’t get behind these grab-bag “poems” about fingering girls at Disneyland and how James Franco is actually a lot like Heath Ledger (just like Veuve Clicquot is a lot like Plan B One Step.) Not only is Directing Herbert White offensive to me as a reader, but also as a poetry enthusiast. DHW has set the poetry community back, the same community, in fact, that currently tongues Franco’s perfectly-directed taint.
Christ! that I could break the stigmas about poetry that butt-nugs like Franco push on society. I’m at least going to try. Here we go:
1) “I can’t follow it.”
Well, lazy, that’s because you actually have to READ the words and consider them. Poetry’s language has maximum connotative value, and yes, this requires a little thought from the reader.
Instead of saying “words only have meaning because we ascribe meaning to them,” the poet might say, “This is the door/and this the word for door.” Instead of saying, “Our relationship was a lie,” the poet might describe her boyfriend performing cunnilingus on her (“hair in my hands the colour of pennies.”)
Of course prose writing has nuance and subtext, but every line of a poem, if done right, packs a connotative punch. We can’t expect writers to intravenously inject or spoon-feed every idea into our Twitter-addled heads. Stephenie Meyer can’t write everything, and neither can her fans.
2) “It’s boring.”
This statement could not be more wrong if it tried. After reading poetry about whiskey waltzing, murdering your baby and getting dick-slapped by your shrink, I have a hard time buying this platitude. The era of “doth,” “wilt,” and “more lovely and more temperate,” is gone (but not forgotten) and many modern poets have been killing it since Whitman (basically.) Okay, maybe there are poets, besides Franco, who’ll write long-winded, inaccessible poetry about chickens or an abandoned town, but a few pseudo Johnny Appleseeds getting masturbatory over Americana can’t completely sully Poetry’s good name.
Not only this, but most poetry isn’t long enough to be boring. It’s the Listerine pocket-pack of literature– intense, overwhelming, flavorful, brief — unlike prosaic works which can over-stuff you (at least until desserts come…which in this analogy are PornHub comments.)
3) “Why don’t you just write a paragraph?”
Hmm, I don’t know. Why didn’t the Beatles just write fucking paragraphs? Why didn’t Van Goh paint fucking paragraphs? Form makes a poem a poem (even prose poetry technically employs a form.) Form gives a poem narrative pacing, emotional poignancy, and musicality. If you aren’t now, you ought to get warm for form.
4) And in that vein, “I like fiction better.”
Fiction is wonderful. The best fiction employs imagery at poetry’s level, and the best poetry employs a narrative arc like fiction pieces do, but really the two are as different as apples and that William Carlos Williams poem about plums.
Poetry is uniquely lively and gives the impression of movement, but then again so does the song from the Devious Maids commercial… which leads me to my biggest defense of poetry: “art” is very, very subjective.
So to sum up, not all poems are good (especially if your biggest accomplishment is still getting Lindsay Weir to cheat in school.) But “Poetry” is…well, poetry.