Poetry is Everywhere

I’m just going to come out and say it: People take poetry too seriously.

So many people I talk to think of poetry as this bougie, intellectual thing that people pretend to like to seem smarter at dinner parties. Poetry is like dry red wine or Ernest Hemingway novels, available everywhere, but you can’t find a single person who genuinely likes it for what it is. Now, I find this absolutely baffling because I actually like poetry. No, I’m not trying to impress anyone or look smarter. I like poetry and I like reading it, but that’s because I have never taken it too seriously.

I think the issue is how we are introduced to poetry. More often than not, a person’s first introduction to poems is in some type of high school class in which a stuffy teacher recites flowery sonnets and then forces the class to write a five page essay on the symbolism and word choices of that poet. It seems like we’re taught from a young age that poetry is this complex, abstract thing that needs to be carefully dissected to be fully understood. It takes effort to enjoy it properly and that is utter bullshit in my opinion.

Poetry is defined as, “the art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for exciting pleasure.”  Basically, poetry is any and every combination of words that you find pleasant. And, as is often the case, you get to decide what you find pleasant and why. It doesn’t take a five page essay and a deep understanding of things like alliteration, symbolism, and rhyming schemes to know that you like the way something sounds or makes you feel.

A few months ago, one of my coworkers found me in my office reading a collection of E.E. Cummings poems. She said something along the lines of, “Wow, you’re so smart. I need to read poetry.” Well, after that, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I have no idea what his poetry is supposed to be about. I just like it because it’s fun to read out loud.

My favorite poem by Cummings is “Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town,”

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did.

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Read that out loud.

Isn’t it fun? It’s got this rhythm to it. It’s like music.

Do I have any idea what it means? Absolutely not. In my opinion, good poetry is sometimes like pop music. Meaningless and fun, and that’s okay.

On the topic of my favorite poems, some of my favorites aren’t even poems. They’re single lines of text that I found on Twitter or Tumblr or in a novel that just resonated with me. Here are some of my favorites:  

“What a blessed if painful thing, this business of being alive.” – Joe Hill

“Do sharks complain about Monday. No. They’re up early, biting stuff, chasing shit, being scary – reminding everyone they’re a fucking shark.” – Tumblr 

“What can be done when you’re eleven can often never be done again.” – Stephen King

“Believe in yourself. You are an ancient, absent god, discussed only rarely by literary scholars. So if you don’t believe, no one will.” – Welcome to Nightvale

I love these “mini poems” because they say something deep and profound without burying it underneath a lot of unnecessary prose or rhymes. Straight and to the point while still being lyrical and beautiful. Poetry doesn’t have to be obscure to be well done or pleasant.

Now, I could continue talking about this for a while, but I’m down in Vancouver for work and just finished up a two-day science communication conference. I’m ready for a fucking beer.

“I’m ready for a fucking beer.” Look, a new poem.

-EMS

 

Advertisements

Lowering the Bar for 2018

 

Let me just say that I’m super proud of you, Daniel. You did so many cool things this past year and listening to you talk about everything you achieved inspires me to do more with my time.

While you did achieve a lot of what you wanted to do this past year, I feel like I barely did anything. I had some lofty goals at the beginning of 2017, including running a half marathon and teaching myself calligraphy. Did any of that happen? Well, I did read forty books, which is pretty cool. Still feel like I could’ve done more, ya know?

This year I’m going to set goals for myself again, but instead of creating incredibly lofty goals, I think I’m going to keep mine simple. Some may call this lowering the bar, I call this celebrating the little steps I can take to help me reach my incredibly lofty goals.

Here are my incredibly simple, straightforward goals for 2018.

Read more books.

This past year I read a lot and I’ve told myself a couple times that, in 2018, I’ll push myself and read 60 books. Well, we’re only five days into 2018 and I already feel like that goal is too high. I feel like I’m setting myself up for failure by dedicating myself to five books a month.

So, instead, my goal is just to read more. I’d like to read 50 books, but as long as I match what I read last year, I’ll be happy.

I also want to read more horror novels by women and people of color. I realized over this last year that a lot of my favorite authors are white guys, which is just sad. I’m not saying Stephen King and Jack Ketchum and Joe Hill aren’t good writers, I just want there to be more diversity in the books I read. And the only way to make things more diverse is to actively try to make it so. I can’t just hope more women and people of color get popular, I need to work for it. If I just keep reading horror novels with great reviews, I’m going to read a lot of stuff by white guys. I want to give other people a chance.

Watch less Netflix.

Now when I say watch less Netflix, what I actually mean is I need to stop using streaming services to “fill time.” More often than not, I’ll spend a few hours on the couch watching something I’ve seen a million times just because it’s comfortable. It’s safe, in a way.

My goal for 2018 is to do that less. I don’t just want to fill time, I want to enjoy my time and I can do that by only using Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Youtube to watch things that I actually want to watch. Stop re-watching the same things over and over and broaden my viewing horizons a bit. There are thousands of horror movies I haven’t seen and yet I’m re-watching Roseanne. Sad. 

Save money.

This has literally been goal of mine since I graduated college. I just need to save more money so I don’t end up going into debt every time a big bill hits. To help me achieve this goal, I’m going to try to do less retail therapy. I need to stop spending money on things just because I can. Now, I can still buy things I want, but only if I really want them and not because I need to “treat myself.”

I also want to spend less money on beer that’s just for me. I like craft beer because it’s something I can share with my friends. It’s an experience! Well, it’s not an experience when I’m sitting at home watching a movie by myself and drinking a beer I’ve had millions of times before. Basically, I sometimes treat beer like I treat Netflix. I spend my money on beer I’ve had before because it’s safe, not because I’m enjoying it. Of course, I’ll still buy beer for myself once in a while, but I don’t need to be spending $60 a month on Black Butte Porter. I could be spending that on stuff I’ve never had before!

Write more.

Again, this is literally a goal I’ve had since the dawn of time. I just want to write more.

In middle school, I wrote every single day and I had notebooks full of fanfictions and funny stories and poetry. Nowadays, I write like once a week and it’s not because I’m passionate about something, it’s more because I feel obligated.

Well, guess what, if obligation is what gets me writing then I’m going to need more of it.

What I specifically want to do is set up a writing schedule for myself and stick to it. No more of this waiting for inspiration or to feel passionate about it bull crap. That doesn’t work anymore. I need to change up my tactics.

Now, my goal is to write a novella and maybe a book of poetry by the end of the year, but that goal comes later. Right now, my goal is just to write more than once a week and to start writing things for myself rather than for work.

Take time for education.

Like I said in my last post, I work at an institution that gives its employees access to college level courses for $5 and yet I’ve only taken advantage of that a couple of times.

Of course, I have big, lofty goals for my education like going back to grad school and becoming a certified cicerone, but for now I’m going to start simple. I just want to make more time for my education, take more time to learn new things because it’s fun.

There are so many free online resources I can take advantage of. Last year, I was enrolled in a introduction to law course and a course on HTML coding for free through Coursera. Did I finish either class? Nope!

That just means I need to make more time for it.

Do more things with my time.

And to wrap up my 2018 goals, I just want to do more things with my time. Right now my free time is taken up mostly by Netflix, reading, crocheting, and work, which means I’m incredibly boring. I want to change that. I want to do more.

Some things I’m planning to do more of this year, mostly because it will give me things to do during the time I’m usually re-watching Gilmore Girls, are play more video games, get back into drawing and painting, listen to more podcasts, and try out different types of exercise besides running. I want to be an interesting person and right now all I can list under the hobbies section are reading and crocheting.

So there you go, those are my goals for this coming year. Yep, I pulled the bar way down for this year, but it’s worth it if in January 2019 I can look back and feel like I accomplished something. Setting myself up for failure isn’t a good thing. 

-EMS