I’ve been thinking about some poems I’ve recently read. Poems much better than the ones on this page. Look at these three fake (joke?/bad?) poems:
The weight of the Universe
Crushes down on me
Every bad thought ever uttered
Are but pebbles
Amongst the boulders
Of negative vibes
That suffocate me
I’m a bad poem
Why was I written?
2. Sun Fun Joy
Oh, the world is glorious
With bright flowers and humming bees
And happy little trees
Fragrant fresh air
Blowing in the breeze
Every pleasant cliché you can imagine
As long as they end with ease
Or is it seas? Knees? Freeze? Frieze? Sneeze?
Oh, any happy little rhyme
If you please
3. Ordinary Day
Things are going pretty good
In a normal way
Sometimes I think I should
But not now
What can I say?
It’s an ordinary day
Pretty silly, huh? Well, to answer #1, the reason they exist, the reason they were written is to illustrate a point. Or a few points. In order:
1 – People seem to gravitate towards dark poems. There seems to be an understanding that dark=deep. Hurt and angst seem to generate the most traffic.
2 – Almost as many people gravitate towards poems that are so light and fluffy that lovers of poem #1 want to puke. Pleasant, happy, all is well if you want it to be, kumbaya type poems are very popular. About 99% of poems I see on Facebook are like this.
3 – Most of the greatest poets seem to write about ordinary things and yet when poems about ordinary things appear on blog or, God forbid, on Facebook, they don’t seem as popular as overly optimistic or overly dark poems.
So, why do people feel most attracted to either poems about hurt and alienation or exaggerated optimism? The answer to this puzzle isn’t rocket science.
We’ve all felt put upon. We’ve all been alienated. We’ve all felt that nobody could ever understand our misery. Our angst. Our hurt. We crawl into our shells and suffer on our own. We have no words to express this awful feeling. Isn’t it great that somebody does have the words? Reading the poem we feel the pain. We can taste the love rebuffed. We can hear our own sighs off desperation. It connects to us. Someone else understands.
There is another side to #1. We humans are social creatures and we want to help those in pain. Yes, when we are in pain we feel alone, but when we see someone else in pain we want to hug them and comfort them. These types of poems can bring out these emotions. Emotions of pity and understanding. We feel empathy. Some of our more noble characteristics are brought to the forefront. Strangely, sharing your misery makes us feel good.
Well, we’ve had a bad day and need to be cheered up. We like something that makes us smile. Often corny poetry that is all lightness and good is just the thing. Even if we are doing OK it is still nice to smile. Part of our mind steps back and says, “That is the most saccharine drivel I’ve read in ages. Sweetness and light with no substance, cotton candy for the mind.” Yes it is. Yet we often need a treat, a little junk food. And, as long as we keep it in moderation, this type of junk food won’t hurt us.
People also like the light, sunny poem because it is easy to understand. It takes little thought. Nothing is demanded of the audience. One of my definitions of the difference between art music and popular music is art music makes demands of the audience while pop doesn’t. That doesn’t mean pop can’t be deep. The poetry from example #2 is pop poetry. A good poet can make you feel good, a great one can add even more meaning.
Now #3 presents more of a problem. Making the extraordinary out of the mundane is often the poet’s job, but it takes a good poet and a patient audience who is willing to put something of themselves into the poem. Of course if the audience puts enough in the return can come back a thousand fold.
Earlier today I put up a post about taking a different perspective. Here is what I wrote about poetry: What is poetry except looking at the world from a different perspective? That is the whole point of it – to step back and say truths (at least what feels like the truth to the poet) in a way that magnifies the truth and makes sense out of the seemingly incomprehensible. I also mentioned the job of taking the mundane and turning it into the fantastic.
If done properly, better than my silly examples above, I have respect for all three types of poems and poets who create all three. That being said, there really is something special about those who can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, isn’t there?
So what are your thoughts?
(Note – Of course I realize there are many other types of poems, from love poems to limericks. As the title says, A little Bit of Silliness. )
Drawing by Trent P McDonald