Dispatches | December 30, 2008

So, I am writing this post as an ode to my lovely fellow poetry readers at TMR. I have never been a part of an academic group so nerdy and so much fun in my entire life.

Before joining the poetry team at TMR I had all of these worries about my ability to analyze a piece of poetry as well as my fellow staff members. I had this idea in my head that I was going to pick the worst piece in the world and pass it along to someone who was going to judge my reading abilities. “Oh, Nick passed along this packet of poetry. Personally, I thought it was garbage, but Nick here must have seen some value in it.”

Or so I thought until I got to the poetry team and met the most diverse group of people I have ever seen when it comes to poetry tastes. I tend to like things that are lyrical, light, and accessible, while another guy likes to read Buddhist poetry, and another likes to read poems with weight and sophistication. We all like different things. Which I think gives our poetry reading even more strength, because for a poem to be accepted it has to go through all of our varying poetry criteria before being accepted, appealing to a bunch of different interests.

Earlier this month, we had a meeting where we read poetry for 4.5 hours, and none of us regretted a single minute. It made for a very humorous retelling to my not-so-literary-inclined friends about this and it followed with shaking of heads, a few screams, and the response, “Nick, you’re giving me a headache.”

But all in all, we love what we do. We love to read poetry, any kind, even the ones we don’t like get treasured by us on staff, because they were memorable. What do I mean? Here is an example of some of the more humorous phrases we have thrown around in our meetings.

This poem has “hidden, erotic moments”
“All good poets seem to come from Ohio.”
“I will proceed to read this poem in the exact accent I believe this woman would have said it.”
“28 MPH”

Anyway, I say this all to make a statement how we’re really don’t act like we’re any better than anyone else and the atmosphere is really open to suggesting new ideas and making pitches for poems that are unusual and strange, and how everyone is really on an equal footing when it comes to reading these submissions. I have enjoyed having this niche to really work in, because a lot of people who are not in the literary world find poets to be weird. Non-ficiton, sure there are a ton of those people. Fiction, great, everyone seems to love fiction. But poetry? All I hear is how it doesn’t make sense or it’s too complicated or its just a bunch of gibberish.

But really, it’s a kaleidoscope. It’s taking a bunch of colored pieces and putting it in a cylinder and making a beautiful design out of it. And I have come to realize this from hanging with the poets, in that poetry is not a stuffy art, but an art of opportunity and exploration. I love the poets because we’ll try anything and we are a small, closely-knit group. And it’ll always be my favorite academic group.