Poetry Month 2013: Epilogue on Metrophobia
Alright, metrophobes, this ones for you. (And no, I don’t mean those with an irrational fear of straight men with flat-irons!) Over the course of this poetry month, we’ve tried to teach you a little history of poetry, show you poetry in unexpected places, and generally make it a little less scary! (which is where metrophobia comes in). Metrophobia, apparently, is the fear or hatred of poetry. And for those of you who aren’t really sure it’s a thing, I give you Exhibit A:
Cut. It. Out. Havvvve Mercy. Whatever happened to predictability? Go ahead, get all your Full House-isms off your chest. Done? Okay fine, one more. Puh-leassse. Alright, now think back to that episode where Uncle Jesse confesses that he was a high school dropout. Do you remember why? It was because of a poem! Uncle Jesse tells the family that he left class and never went back after his teacher publicly humiliated him for not being able to recite the Walt Whitman poem, “O Captain! My Captain!”. The family convinces Jesse to give it another shot and go back for his GED, so this little Beach Boy goes off to night school, ready to finally recite Whitman proudly. Somehow, though, after all these years, Uncle J. has the same teacher! Jesse recites the poem proudly, but the teacher can’t resist humiliating him again in front of all his classmates (this time for not knowing the meaning of the poem), and he once again leaves school never to return again. It’s a little bit tragic!
All of that is to say that, yeah, while reading and writing poetry can be really rewarding experiences, they can also be activities fraught with anxiety. To end out poetry month and hopefully give you a little bit of encouragement, here are some suggestions for those of you who may experience a little bit of metrophobia. April doesn’t have to be the cruelest month!
1. Sometimes, we opt to not read poetry because, like Uncle Jesse, we worry we might not “get” the poem, or get it right. But we shouldn’t look at it that way! The great thing about poetry is that it can mean different things to different people. What’s most enjoyable about a poem is what it means to you! Just sit back and relax and let the poem take you wherever it wants to.
2. Some of us love writing poetry, but are scared to death to show it to anybody for fear they won’t think it’s any good. Poetry can be such a personal thing and this is something that all poets experience. One thing I would suggest if you aren’t feeling ready to show your work to people that you know is to show it to people online. Places like http://www.poetrycritical.net/ offer workshops and critiques of poems and allow you to create a user name, so you can be completely anonymous! Sometimes we need to work our way up to showing others our writing, and this can be a great first step.
3. For others, the real fear is in reading our poetry aloud. Poetry readings can be very intimidating, especially for those who don’t love public speaking, but they can also be very rewarding experiences. It’s such a great feeling to set your little poem out into the world by speaking it aloud! One thing that can be helpful is to practice your poem ahead of time with a friend, figure out where you will pause to take a breath (speaking from experience, it’s much better to breathe than try to rush the poem out in one breath!). This will also help you figure out where to emphasize, speed up, slow down, etc. The more you practice it aloud, the more comfortable you get with looking up while you read, which also makes you look more confident!
Now that you’ve (hopefully) found your inner Walt Whitman, it’s time to conclude National Poetry Month 2013; I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Thanks for sticking it out with me! Peace and love poems,