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Freaks? Yes, please!

Mood: Scheming
Drinking: Coke of the diet vanilla variety

In the course of my recent Internet stalking of a fellow poet, I was elated to read this post on her blog:
“After reading 4 volumes of ‘best american poetry’, i am willing to make the statement that i really hate a lot of poetry. perhaps i am not a poet at all. perhaps, as (friend) suggests, i am actually a text dj. because i don’t wanna have anything to do with what those folks do. and likely? vice versa!”

To which I say a very loud, “Hell, yeah!”

This is probably one of the reasons why I enjoy her poetry…because we are part of the secret poetry-hater sisterhood. If only there were such a thing. (By the way, I’m not going to keep her to myself. Her name is Daphne Gottlieb, and you can check out some of her work here.)

Back in the school daze of sack lunches and dress codes, there was a “Literature” class that scarred me forever. We studied the collected works of long-revered poets and it all merged into a mush that sounded like this:

“From cocoon forth a butterfly
As lady from her door
Emerged–a summer afternoon–
Repairing everywhere,

Without design, that I could trace,
Except to stray abroad
On miscellaneous enterprise
The clovers understood.

Her pretty parasol was seen
Contracting in a field
Where men made hay, yawn yawn etcetera…”

And although her name is the first that comes to mind when I try to root out the source of my poetry hatred, Emily Dickinson is not the only one who bored me into endlessly doodling “Mrs. Luke Skywalker” in intricate curliques all over my unicorn notebook. I never met a poet in textbooks that I actually liked. And the first time someone referred to my writing as “poetry”, I was equal parts horrified and offended.

I didn’t want to be one of “those people”, writing about the wonder of bees and trees and crafting rhyming Hallmark couplets about friendship and daisies. I’m all too aware that there are legions of people who think Miss Dickinson is a genius. And even more who spend their hard-earned quarters on mawkish greeting cards. And far too many more who think that they are a “poet” because they wrote something along the lines of:

“I know you’re watching me from heaven
with gossamer angel wings of love.
But I still miss you, Grandma,
you were a gift sent from above.”

Heartfelt, schmaltzy rhymes do not a poet make.

For years, I thought I was the only one who loved words but hated poetry. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve picked up a volume of poetry and started reading, waded about two lines in, rolled my eyes, and tossed the book back on the shelf. I have always wanted some blood and tears in my poems. Make me feel it. Make me see it. Show me some beautiful pain. Some rawness. Some sacrilege. Some reality.

And then one glorious day I found Sylvia and her poppies. (“If my mouth could marry a hurt like that!”)

She and her suicide were too scandalous for them to teach in the uptight private school I attended, but I found her anyway. I still remember the moment I read “Mad Girl’s Love Song” and swooned…

“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,

and arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)”

Sylvia Plath erased my fear of poetry. And after her there was Charles Bukowski with his women and his whiskey and his affinity for dogs and racehorses. And then came Nicole Blackman and her black cotton mafia. And now I’ve met Daphne and her blooming grenades.

Kindred spirits, all. Misfits and freaks and raging voices in the night. My kind of people. Be they poets, drunks or text DJs, I don’t care. Whatever it is that these pens pull from paper, it is good. It is real. It is true. It frightens away the bees. It separates the daisy people from the bloody poppies. And if it doesn’t, I don’t like it.

If you’re the biggest Dickinson fan in the world and you think I’m an arrogant snob and an awfully naughty poetry hater, that’s just fine. Go ahead and toss your sticks and stones. Me and the freaks will be over here in the corner sharpening our pens.

-Lo, whose favorite Nicole Blackman line at the moment is: “I want matches in case I have to suddenly burn.”

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