Perusing Poetics: Plato is Annoying, and Other Reasons I Want to Apologize to Poets

You may or may not know this, but this blog was originally a poetry blog. DO NOT GO BACK INTO THE TAGS AND FIND IT. It was bad and it’s all really old now, like pre-college, beginning of high school aged. But I just wanted to preface this discussion with that.

So this week’s readings for my Poetics class was Plato’s Republic, Book X and Aristotle’s Poetics. If you haven’t read them, don’t worry. Basically the point of them–especially Plato–is to crap on the life and the work of the poet.

Plato has this point where he says poetry corrupts people, emotion is bad, and poets should be confined to hymns and praises of the gods. Aristotle is a little better, because technically he’s confirming that tragic poetry is better than epic poetry, but basically it’s all about how poetry is only good if it conforms to this little proper box. (Yes, anyone who’s read these is probably spitting fire because of over-simplification. Bear with me.)

What’s important–and frustrating–is the effect that this kind of philosophy has had on poets since Plato decided to open his mouth. You can Google lists of pieces titled, in essence, “In Defense of Poetry” or “Apologies for Poetry.” It’s ridiculous, especially considering poetry’s past power.

Confused about what I mean? Well, what do you think of poetry right now? If one person says they’re a novelist and one person says they’re a poet, who do you rank on top? Poets have been characterized as goths at coffee houses (perfectly valid life choice for poets, but not the only one) or cryptics saying nothing in the media, and that certainly adds to the effect.

I know I’m not a poet. I’ve written more recent poetry for school and I’m basically the kind of poseur that Plato would like to kick out of his Republic. I’m aware of that. That’s why I’m not a poet. But, thanks to school, I have studied multiple forms inside and out in accordance with both my English and Writing degrees and I RESPECT POETS SO MUCH. I can barely rhyme let alone formulate a sestina (look it up – the form will make your head hurt).

I write short stories and novels. This is a kind of writing I understand the conventions of. You can master a basic plot pretty quickly. Poetry? Dear Lord. I’ve studied Shakespearan sonnets since grade school and when I was required to write one for class I STILL ripped the end-rhymes from a sonnet Shakespeare had already written because I couldn’t get the rhyming down.

My point is: I never thought I’d be disappointed in someone like Plato, who I’ve been told to laud as a philosopher since PBSKids morning TV shows. I understand that there is a certain time period that he’s writing from and all that, so maybe it’s more correct to say that no one has thought to update their opinion much since then. Poets remain a feature of the classroom: an annoying period of English class or a specialized class in college. They aren’t all that mainstream and they certainly don’t get the buzz of NYT bestselling novelists.

The one thing they do have going for them is their community. When I blogged poetry, as bad as it was, I was welcomed without a second thought into the poetry blogging community with open arms. I have yet to have an online experience since then that has felt as natural and warm as that. In the real world there are also magazines, retreats, etc, that might not (always) be big, but they are proud.

So you tell me. Am I crazy? What do you think of poetry? There’s a comment section for a reason! (Extra points go any comment-writer who responds in some form of verse.)

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These Four Walls

These Four Walls

These four walls
Have held me up forever
Kept me safe all my life
And even when the colors dimmed
They stood so tall I never wondered
If they’d ever fall

These four walls
When did they start cracking?
How did I miss all the signs?
Now the chipping, the peeling,
The cracking, the holes
Are too far gone to repair

These four walls
Can’t stand on their own now
Can’t keep supporting the ceiling
From crashing down on us all
Their screams fill the air
But I’m too afraid to cover my ears

These four walls
I’m holding them up now
I won’t let them crash on the only life I’ve ever known
There’s nothing else for me to do
Even though I know
One day they’ll smother me

Void

Void

It would be easier to say
I’m tired of feeling such soul-shattering sadness or
Holding in a horrid degree of hate or
Crying acid tears that tear open my flesh to the soul

I wish I could scream
That my heart is being torn apart
By fiery rage or mind numbing fear
But this is not the case

It is harder to admit
That I am being consumed by
The black hole of bleakness
That comes from being unable to feel at all

Contradictions

Contradictions

I’m afraid of being right

I’m afraid of being wrong

I’m afraid of being quiet

I’m afraid of being loud

I’m afraid of blending in

I’m afraid of sticking out

I’m afraid of speaking my mind

I’m afraid of never being heard

I’m afraid of taking risks

I’m afraid of having regrets

I’m afraid of following my heart

I’m afraid of losing its beat

I’m afraid of finding love

I’m afraid of losing it

I’m afraid of my dreams

I’m afraid of never achieving them

I’m afraid of not being me

I’m afraid I’m a contradiction

When You’re Not Looking

When You’re Not Looking

Love, they say, is an elusive thing
That you can catch
Out of the corner of your eye
But disappears when you turn
But I went after it anyways
Wearing the camouflage
All the other girls wore
Emulating their tactics
Blending in with the group

Days passed
Months perhaps
And I found no glimpse of success
So the other girls
Thickened their paint
And stomped through the underbrush
Hoping to be obvious
To be caught
But me?

I washed of my pretend skin
I turned my back
Later I would say
It was because I learned to love myself
But that was a lie
I wasn’t being strong
I didn’t love being unique
I only laughed so loud
Because I thought no one cared

And then one day
I turned around and gasped
For it’s funny what you find when you’re not looking