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Why Your Friends Hate Your Poetry

August 27, 2013

read poetry cartoon

You’ve been close to some of these people since childhood. Whenever you post life changing events, they freely dole out “thumbs up” on your social media like it’s a WW2 pilots convention. But when you post your poetry, they scatter like cockroaches in search lights. What’s the deal? You’ve mulled this over a million times. Short of ditching them all, pulling on some boxing gloves, or crying in a corner, there’s not much more resolution you can achieve on your own. So let me offer some help. Let’s walk through the possibilities together of some of the main reasons why your friends seem to hate your poetry (and I’m using poetry in the classical sense, as a catch-all for any kind of creative expression: art, dancing, music, writing, sockpuppetry, etc.).

1. They aren’t your real friends. Why else wouldn’t they delight to read your latest deconstructed ode? A real friend would be there for you. This is your art we’re talking about, something you take more seriously than just about anything else. Who are these strangers on your friends list, at your birthday party, in your house, or next to you in bed? Maybe the time has come for some much needed housekeeping as they say, and now you’ve got just the test for seeing who stays and who gets the boot. Whip out that ream of zingers right when things start hopping on your friends list or at that birthday party or while in bed. Just watch how quickly your notion of friendship will be clarified for you.

2. Your poetry sucks. I know this one’s hard. But let’s consider it, if only for one brief, biting moment. Do your poems sound like commercial jingles? Do you write them out in handwritten, multicolored “puffy” letters? Are they about cats, birds, nature, Wisconsin—or an ultra-personal obsession, something your friends find comparable to the eye-stinging aroma of cat litter? Are your poems about any of the topics sure to turn most people who are into poetry off to yours, like talking firetrucks or taxes? Talking firetrucks who do people’s taxes would be okay, of course, but if you knew that we wouldn’t be having this conversation. This might be a good time to review your oeuvre with a critical eye before we move on.

3. You’ve misconstrued the terms of the friendship. Your assumed linkage of “friend” and “patron” is unfounded. Friends want to drink with you. They hit the like button for  pics of you taken while drinking, particularly when urged by them. After the hangovers, they feel duped to realize they’ve signed on to your feedback circle. The more generous among them hope for an incentive. Quick! Get out your scissors and make a “Read Three Poems and Get a Free Beer” card you can stamp for them?

4. Your friends are protecting you. They’ve heard the horror stories about the cruel world creative-types face and they don’t want you to get your hopes up. They think you’re too much of a dreamer already. They have to stick together on this one and be strong. For you. They’re doing it for you. Remember: It takes a village not to raise a village idiot and, by gumption, they’re going to get you through this, kiddo. In no time, you’ll be back to their version of your “real” self, living the practical life safe in a prophylactic of their creation—which shall be your understanding, for some reason, never to dream too openly again. Now all of this has us shaken up. Why don’t we all just calm down…One Stepford Friend…Two Stepford Friend…Three Stepford Friend…

5. It’s not you; they hate all poetry. Like most people who are not poets, your friends don’t read poetry. Maybe they despise poetry. The masses come in two sizes, after all, unwashed and vulgar, and if your friends are people there’s a pretty good chance they could share in the thought that poetry is no longer a mass entertainment and hasn’t been since the days when it was recited to distract people from the unpleasant odors of farm animals, cholera, and themselves.

6. They fear your ego. First a few poems published, then what? The same thing we do every night Pinky... I mean, come on, we all know how hard it is to suffer Helen with her new job when we haven’t gotten a raise in years. Or Jim with his trophy wife. Would there even be room by the hors d’oeuvre table with your new sense of your self hogging up ego space by the pigs in blankets and the punch?

7. They suffer poet envy. They are unrealized poets and artists with long-crushed dreams. Why should they nurture you when their creative energies were demolished under gargantuan heels of indifference in their own lives?

8. They fear comparison. Now that you’ve accomplished this piece of writing that you’ve shared with the world, the drudgery of their own lives seems suddenly vivid and achingly impossible to ignore. Compared to you, they’ve got nothing, except maybe a life measured out in coffee spoons. Yeah, that’s a good one. They like that metaphor. Where’d that come from again? Oh yeah, A f$!^%g poem!!  Bingo! Your poetry casts them and their shortcomings into shameful relief and they fear you for it. They fear you and their own ineluctable smallness. Ha ha! You are a planet–Poeton–while they…They are but the minute specks of cosmic yada yada –you get they picture. They’re small. And you’re a friggin galaxy of beautiful language.

9. It’s not happening at all. It’s all in your head. Not everyone leaves the building when you declaim your poetic accomplishments. A few wide-eyed cheerleaders yet remain. Sure, they’re not the ones with the highest kicks or the shortest skirts and the solo show they’ve been referring to as the “fireworks” consists mainly of somersaults along the gravel of the track, somersaults done with an excess of breathing and their tongues sticking out like small children writing their names for the first time. But the point is they’re still there, leading your cheers from the sidelines and maybe it is they who deserve more praise and encouragement from you.

10. Who cares. Much has been learned from our list so far. If this were a work sheet we would leave the spaces here blank. This would be a time for reflection, a “notes” section for you to continue the bold project of piercing into the conundrums that plague the creative soul. But hey, we do not write because we expect instant gratification or universal appeal—even though we might dream of these golden apples as we write. We write because we do.

18 Comments
  1. Most of my friend tell me they never read it because they find it hard to understand it,especially if it is an autobiographical piece they get mad that they cannot pinpoint it to a trait of mine or an event.

  2. I wouldn’t read poetry to a friend. I would only read poetry to a person that appreciates poetry. Unless my friendships were based on poetry being the common thread. Friends don’t want to be put in the akward situation of having to fake liking your poetry. It can be stressful.

  3. minus the cat poetry bashing, this piece rules.

  4. Ummm… well, yes, to all points. 😉 I keep thinking that a poet has “no honor in his own country.”

  5. What an excellent list 🙂 I’m with #10 all the way, I just don’t care if they like it or not. It wasn’t for them anyway. Or maybe it is Vogon poetry…

  6. My poetry sucks. No point in denying the truth. /shrug

  7. Brieuse Bernhard Piers-Gûdmönd permalink

    No one liked me poems
    They said my writing sucked.
    They said the poems never rhymed
    So I told them to get a different anthology.

  8. My inner Red Forman’s pointing to No. 2 and saying, “see, he agrees with me!”

  9. I’m new to your site – lucky me! I love this post and have some catching up to do on your archives. As for my friends – thankfully I write for me – whether anyone chooses to like it or not is a personal choice, and I’m always smiling when I write. Nice to meet you. Belinda

  10. I have to thank you for the ‘like’ if solely for bringing me to this post. I had to chuckle a good bit!

  11. I appreciate this quite a lot, as yet another wannabe poet whose friends fairly flinch whenever I mention “Oh, hey, I wrote this poem/story/article….”

  12. sisteranan permalink

    ‘It takes a village not to raise a village idiot; ? * Looks down at abandoned sock puppet* Finally, it all makes sense…
    Seriously, i think people have an internal twitch response to poetry because it invites to a greater mental intimacy – something which could be painful and best reserved for poets long dead and rendered harmless by time.

  13. elephantthrown permalink

    So bloody true – two thoughts spring to mind firstly since i’ve started my blog loads of people who gave me very guarded dirty looks when I’ve mentioned it before, have read my stuff since and enjoyed it! Maybe because of the social awkwardness of agreeing to look at someone’s creative joy when they’re not into it, or Maybe it’s what Guy Debord says – you can tell someone something ’till you’re blue in the face and they wont listen – but the second it’s published it’s indisputable good advice…

    Ta for the like Michael, always appreciated

  14. Dorian permalink

    Loved this, particularly shatterwindow dude in the cartoon. Felt like doing that a couple of times in undergrad poetry classes.

  15. This is so good. My husband’s toes become ischaemic from scrunching them so tight (cringeing) when I ask him to look at a poem. Prose seems to be ok though. He seems more relaxed then.

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