Losing Poetry

I should call this entry by a different title. I’ve never had poetry. Not in the way we normally think about poetry: beautiful language arranged in careful patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables conveying a moment or an image. You can spend hours digging through Poetryfoundation.org and travel down the rabbit hole of Hendecasyllabic metrical lines.

And rhyme? I could barely spell it most days. Or rhythm. Poetry confounded me. I kept failing the stress tests, putting my / and ^ in all the wrong spots. Not knowing my Iamb from a spondee, I hated poetry. It dragged down my English grades – the one class where I felt somewhat confident – and that was a cardinal sin in my family.

(For those who were not raised with my particular Serbian father, it worked like this: You got straight A’s or A+’s. Anything else was failure. Now – it didn’t matter what classes you got straight A’s in, as long as they were A’s. This encouraged me to take non-AP classes, or classes that didn’t challenge me, in order to keep the quarterly drubbing down to a minimum.)

I’ve always regretted this choice – made to survive a moment, but costing me later in life. I should have drowned myself in poems. I didn’t discover Neruda or Baudelaire until much later. I marveled but could not replicate. And I couldn’t understand. Not really – and not in depth. Heartless. Prosaic in the worst ways. My first decisions were always utilitarian. They sky was grey. It wasn’t ashen, or dark as wet slate. It was grey. Writing was for quick scene descriptions or reports.

Now, I am strangled by another weed: email and customer service writing.

“Mike (pretending like we are friends),

Hope all is well! (One exclamation point to start – I’m enthusiastic!)

Just wanted to touch base about our call from last week. (You’re late and wasting my time)

Did you get my notes and follow up questions? (Do you even read your emails?)

Please, let me know if you have any questions about the contract (Yes, you have to read it. No, we aren’t giving you a discount).

Take care! (Enthusiastic again!)


Meanwhile, I read stories by authors who let poetry take root in their heart – who ‘got it’ – and I despair. Is it ever too late to let poetry into your heart? No. But people will notice a surface growth rather than a deep cover, with roots stretching down into the soil…

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