Yesterday I thought to myself that I should once again try sending some poetry out to different magazines and such. So I got out the old Poet’s Market (well, actually, it wasn’t the old one– my library is very up to date, you know) and started going through.
Ugh, ugh, ugh.
In the descriptions of what the magazines want, it’s always “we want the edgy, the avant-garde, the weird, bizarre, disturbing–” And then I skiiiiiip….
Or it’s “we want pieces that will make the reader _________.” Well, I can’t control other people’s actions or emotions. This is Basic Life 101. I mean, I can write something with a certain vibe, but how am I supposed to be certain that it will resonate in a certain specific way with someone? And isn’t part of the awesomeness of art that everyone can interpret things in their own way, that the same piece can be important to someone for totally different reasons than it’s important to someone else? (Or unimportant to someone else, as the case may be.) (“Important… Unimportant….” as the King of Hearts would say.)
And then they give tips like: “Send only your best work.” Seriously? I guess these people must have gotten submissions that were hand-written in pencil on a greasy napkin. Because they also say things like, “We want works of great literary and artistic value”. It seems to me that writers are constantly doubting themselves (I certainly am), so of course we don’t think of our stuff as being Literature. We don’t picture ourselves as marble busts in splendorous libraries with those rolly-ladder things. (Especially because how would we write anything, seeing as we’d lack hands?) So when you say that, magazines, you’re going to discourage the down-to-earth writers who just write, and get submissions from Poets who Write Poetry.
But I think the problem is not just with literary magazines. The problem isn’t even just with people’s current attitude toward art, like you have to be a breathy, bespectacled Artist and create things that no one can understand but that people in the know will pick apart and interpret into something meaningful. I think the problem lies with poetry itself, with art itself these days. I’m not going to cry about bygone eras (except when I think of all the lovely frocks I could wear if I had a time machine). And I’m all for new stlyes and being less rigid (Lord knows I never could write a decent haiku). But I feel like we’ve gotten to a point where not only would Tennyson or Frost or Yeats or Dickinson or Thomas never be published– they rhyme, how trite!– but no one with anything new will be, either. People think poetry is either this:
I like birds
and I rhyme words
cuz I’m a poet
and now you’ll know it!
on the window-
Which, yeah, rhymey-rhymey poetry is dumb, and the second one sounds poetic or metaphorical. But where’s the imagery? Where’s the… Where is this windowsill anyway? What are you doing while the tomato’s rotting? And why should I care?
And what’s wrong with rhyming, anyway, when it’s done well? Anyone ever heard one of the million examples I could pull out of my brain/the interwebs if I had more time? Rhymes are, in my opinion, more fabulous than non-rhyming when the rhyming makes it sound like that’s the only way you could possibly say, well, whatever they say.
And I like them. So there.
Poetry isn’t writing a bunch of Poetic-sounding things and then chopping the lines up so it sounds even more meaningful, okay?
I could say, “Poetry is something that moves your soul” or something like that, but I won’t. Sometimes I don’t feel as much soul-moved by poetry as “Well, that was really cool.” And what’s wrong with that?
If “poetry, like bread, is for everyone”, then who cares if I like to eat mine with butter?