I mentioned one of my favorite InstaPoets, Atticus, to a fellow poet the other day and I promptly got a HuffPost link to an article questioning his authenticity. The article stirred up some strong emotions I have on the subject.
In a nutshell, anything that gets people interested in poetry gets a nod from me! Who can judge what is “real” poetry? One of my biggest pet peeves in the writing world is the air of superiority that demands scholarly stanzas marching in line like broken men molded into saluting soldiers.
As you may infer from my seething alliterations, I was once wounded in the battlefield of “real” poets. I was barely out of my teens and decided to join a local writers group for what I thought would be a great place for encouragement and support of my budding art.
My grandmother died not long after I joined and I wrote a poem about her which included her battle with Alzheimer’s disease. It was difficult to express the loss and pain I felt from losing the most gentle and loving person I had known in my life. I wrote something about a storm and lost tiger cubs… I was so nervous to share my poem with the group, but I worked up the courage to read it aloud.
A seasoned writer and published poet, proceeded to rip my poem to shreds, saying it was full of cliches. A few other “real” poets nodded in agreement and suggested I rewrite the poem. Their criticism was all it took for my ever-present inner critic to rapid-fire a stream of negative comments like, “I told you so!” “You’re not a writer. You will never be a real poet.” “Don’t quit your day job!” I believed those “real” poets and I listened to my crippling critic. I never went back to that writers’ group and I didn’t attempt to write poetry again for several years.
I shake my head in disbelief when I think of all the wasted years that I could have done what turned out to be my greatest passion.
Fortunately, my interest in writing and poetry continued even though my confidence was shattered. I never stopped learning. I took college English and writing classes, attended writing workshops and conferences, read several books on writing including two perennial favorites: Stephen King on Writing and Bird by Bird.
When I finally decided to write and share poetry again, I made a promise to myself that I would never again let anyone’s opinion (including my own) stop me. So, when I see criticism of a poet’s work, it brings those memories flooding back and makes me feel a little defensive.
Who cares if it’s cliche? Seriously! If you don’t like a poet’s writing, move along to the next one. Now, that I’m a grandmother, I have earned the right to share what grandmothers say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
We all have different styles of writing we like. For example, I don’t like horror, (sorry Stephen King, I do love your book on writing) but I don’t criticize it, I just focus on reading and writing what I do like, which is mostly romance. Yes, I admit it, I’m a hopeless romantic at heart. Thank you Nicholas Sparks (another writer who has been criticized for creating formulaic, commercialized art.)
I also enjoy uplifting writing and quotes. Atticus covers all those bases! He has over a million followers, proof that a lot of readers like his style. To each their own. The important thing is people are getting interested in poetry again, which not long ago was considered a dying art.
I’m excited about the influx of newcomers into the poetry world joining those who have been inspired to start writing again. Bravo to platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube for providing creative ways to share our art.
Write Any Way
So it’s cliche,
So it’s not grammatically correct,
So it doesn’t rhyme,
Don’t let judgmental “experts”
distort your perception of poetry
or silence the part of your soul
that longs to make sense of life.