Monday, February 20, 2017

Fear of Poetry

Is there a word for this condition like claustrophobia - fear of small spaces. There should be. It appears to be widespread. In Evergreen and surrounds it is almost epidemic.   People who will discuss politics, philosophy and even literature come all over trembly when poetry is mentioned.
At this old age complex we have several clubs which hold regular meetings. The most well attended is the Knitting circle, but there are also Bridge groups and Canasta groups, a Book Club and a Photographic society. The Management, through the staff at reception, put up notices on a notice board and send out notices of the meetings of all these clubs,  All these, except the Poetry Club. For quite a long time there has been a regular poetry meeting on the third Wednesday of the month. Every month I remind staff at reception to publicize this. Every month they forget. Perhaps this is not deliberate, but a expression of a sort of subconscious fear.

There seems to be an of avoidance of poetry almost an hostility towards poetry that is very hard to understand. Here we have a very adequate in-house library which is in constant use. Not all of us watch TV all the time. There are  very many a readers and to judge by the books that have been donated by residents,  many readers who are knowledgeable and discriminating.when it comes to literature. Why then this resistance to poetry? Is it that they think poetry has nothing to say to them or that they  are afraid of what it might have to say to them? Or is it just a reaction to the boring way that poetry is taught in schools?

I have just completed an online course in Modern American Poetry(Modpo) and enjoyed it, so when I found that there were some short courses to fill in the time between the main course, I decided to try one of them. (a short course on John Ashbery's poems) After a few weeks of this course, I am beginning to understand the attitude of my fellow residents. Most of the poems in this course are quite obscure. I  enjoy reading them, for the imagery and the musicality, but have very little idea of what they are about. But the long involved discussions by fellow students are just too much for me to take. I am obviously not cut out for literary studies. Reading poems, even reading them a few times over to get the flavour of them better, which is what sometimes do in our sessions,, is great, but tearing them apart in order to write long screeds about them is just boring to me. As a poet I want my poems to be read and enjoyed, of course, but I don't think I fancy having them dissected.

What I enjoy is going to Poetry readings like Off the Wall, or the Poetry evening at Joon Cafe in Muizenberg, These provide a platform for those who write poetry. People come to read their poems and listen to the poems of others without discussion or judgement. Some poems are better than others, some are very good indeed, but everyone comes to read and to listen and simply to enjoy the evening. Those who find poetry threatening, should come to one of these events, I'm sure it would  change their minds.