Not a Poet

Author’s Note: So, having unexpectedly concluded the story I thought would be my Three Word Wednesday piece, I had to find something new this week.

I actually decided to explain part of how and what I write and why I am the way I am, channeled through someone else, of course, but this is me and poetry, I swear.

Also, I couldn’t help thinking of this song as I did it, since this always comes to mind.

I am not a poet, living is the poem
I am not a singer, I am in the song
And I’ve got a story that I cannot write down
And I’m with you but I’ll always be alone
I may not be right, but I don’t think I am wrong

        ~ Melanie Safka, “I Am Not a Poet (Night Song)”

Today’s words: cooperate, lame, and terse.

Not a Poet

“Lame. Seriously, that had to be the lamest poem ever.”

Bridie tried not to pay attention to her classmate’s words. She’d been against the idea of an oral recitation for her poetry from the beginning, but the professor insisted that they were going to do it whether they liked it. She could either cooperate or fail the class.

Well, maybe it wouldn’t have meant failing, but it would have hurt her grade one way or another. She wanted to disappear under her chair and make this day fade forever. Her father was an editor, her mother a journalist, and they’d named her after the Celtic goddess of poetry, but maybe all that conspired to make it so that she was anything but a poet.

She didn’t think that she was a terrible writer. Her teachers had always liked her essays, and people seemed to enjoy her stories, but when it came to her poetry, there was this horrible silence. She could fill it in with all the things that they didn’t say, and it wasn’t like she didn’t know that the poem was bad before she got up to the podium.

She had. She’d known it was terrible, but that was the best that she’d come up with in the time they’d had to do the assignment. In fact, she’d cheated and pulled out one of her old ones, one that was better than the crap that she’d churned out over the past two weeks.

She let her hair fall over her face and sighed. Her brain just didn’t get poetry. She failed to see the beauty in the ones done to form—haikus had to be the bane of her existence because they never seemed to make sense—and she didn’t like the epics. Classics like Beowulf and Jabberwocky and many, many others were things that made her want to drink.

She tried to like poetry. She did. She’d enjoyed a few simple, silly rhymes when she was younger. Shel Silverstein remained a favorite of hers, but she had sat through all her classmates’ offerings and failed to understand a single one of them. They had gotten ovations and applause, enough to make the auditorium seem too small for their group, but she sat there frowning, wondering what the point had been. She did better with the ones that told stories as opposed to the ones with fantastic imagery. She couldn’t picture the images, not most of the time, but even with the stories… They seemed to end just when she started to comprehend them.

She hated poetry.

She was coming to loathe poetry.

After today’s humiliation, she didn’t think anyone could blame her. Not that she hadn’t had her reasons before, but she was never taking another creative writing class again. She’d thought it was just what she wanted and needed—but this professor was all about the poetry, and she was failing miserably because her brain just didn’t seem capable of processing anything that claimed to be poetry.

She liked lyrics. She did. She loved music, loved singing along, and she found such beautiful stories in the lyrics, ones dying to be told in full novel length.

She didn’t get that from poetry. She just stared at the words and made her head ache over and over again. She picked up her bag and started for the back doors, ready to get out of this room before she got stuck hearing another anthem of beauty that she couldn’t process or more comments about her own failure.

“Where do you think you’re going? Just because you’ve given your presentation doesn’t mean class is over,” the professor said, and she winced, having forgotten that he liked to sit in the back whenever possible, listening to the comments and making sure that everyone was paying attention.

“It is for me.”

“Is it now?” His terse words were an accusation, and she knew what she was about to do would mean that she was going to fail the class, but she no longer cared.

“Yeah. There’s no point in me being here. There never was. I’m not a poet.”

“You are a writer.”

She shrugged. “People expect writing to be poetry. It’ll be lyrical and beautiful and full of wondrous description that takes you right to where everything is and immerses you in a world that’s not your own. That’s not what I do. My stuff is as realistic as I can make it. It’s simple. It’s plain. Understated and sure as hell not poetic.”

“You miss the point of the class.”

“It’s supposed to be about growing and challenging myself and furthering my creativity, and I get that. Maybe I’m not ready to be challenged. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll never grow. There’s this circuit in my brain that shorts itself every time I read a poem. I don’t get them. I don’t like them because I don’t get them. That’s the way it is. I’m not a poet, and I never will be.”

She turned and walked out the door, feeling a bit of weight fall off her shoulders. She could accept it now; she had made peace with it. Poetry and her, they’d never be friends, they’d never get along, but then again, they didn’t have to. She could still write her kinds of stories—for fun, since she doubted anyone would buy them—and she could still read. She’d just stick to prose.

That was for the best, really.

8 thoughts on “Not a Poet

  1. I didn’t write poetry for the longest time. It got to the point where I wondered about writing anything at all. So many people try to discourage us. I know this is a story, but I can relate. I don’t know why its so hard for people to just live and let live. We (as a collective) are far more likely to tear others down than to build them up.

    • kabobbles says:

      Yeah, I think I contemplate giving up writing at least once a week. It can be a thankless process, and discouragement is everywhere.

      Unfortunately, that’s all too true. We’d rather pull things apart then build them up, and so many people think the way to help is to point out what’s wrong rather than helping encourage what’s right.

      • Liana Mir says:

        I always try to do both: point out the things I love and the things that could be clearer or stronger, but try not to mess with someone else’s style. It’s a balancing act.

        • kabobbles says:

          Yeah. I don’t know how to balance it myself. I tend to stick to pure technical notes if possible, just grammatical fixes and typos because most of what I seem to notice is where I would have done things differently. :/

  2. Liana Mir says:

    People expect writing to be poetry.

    Poetry is a kind of writing. No more, no less. Yeah. Their loss for trying to box things in. But go figure, me, my own response to the idea was “litterae,” a poem. :shakes head at self:

    • kabobbles says:

      I have a younger sister who got published in some poetry book in high school. Since it had been my expressed desire to be a writer long before then, they all asked me why I couldn’t do the same with my stuff. Why was she published and not me?

      I had someone else say something about the way my story was going, suggesting that the words should all flow like poetry.

      I like to write, but I don’t write poetry. This is something I accepted about myself years ago. Like Bridie, I just don’t get poems most of the time, and it does feel like my brain short circuits.

      I admire poets. There’s a skill to taking a few words and painting a vivid picture with them, one I don’t have. I can’t write short to save my life.

      So, yes, as long as no one’s boxing people in expecting poetry or not poetry, that’s what’s important. Everyone has a different way of expressing themselves. I thought the poems that gave a glimpse of that story world you were creating was a neat idea. Not one I could pull off, but cool nevertheless.

  3. I feel so very connected to the narrator here. I hate poetry, too. I just can’t get it. I took plenty of classes back in college where poetry was taught, and it simply never clicked with me for many of the same reasons stated here. So this one sung to me, you might say. Great story!

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