On perspectives about poetry
I started to make two separate lists of misconceptions that people “outside” and “inside” of the literary community have about poetry, but then my lists began to overlap, so here is one collective list of my top three favorite (favorite?) misconceptions about poetry.
- Poetry should rhyme. I’ve encountered a few people who believe this. I usually think of it as a misconception that “non-poets” have, but an older published poet just told me last week that he thinks poems should rhyme and use meter, so this one can count for “outsiders” and “insiders.”
- No one writes poems any more. I had one person tell me a few years ago that no one writes poems any more, with the exception of song lyrics. That was a fascinating thing to be told (as someone who writes poems). More often than these instances though, when people who might be considered “outside” the literary community find out that I’m a poet, I get to hear about their favorite poems or a relative who is a poet (and once a man immediately gave me a copy of his deceased mother’s poetry book). Sometimes they confess to me that they love to read and write poetry too. Where do these private readers and writers fall? I’m not sure how to draw the line between who is “in” and “out” of the literary community. That’s a blurry boundary for me, and I don’t want to draw the line to keep anyone out.
- Only “insiders” know what poetry is or should be. This is the idea that those of us who get our work published or publish others’ work get to define poetry, as if people who are reading without writing or writing in private or speaking rather than writing can’t possibly know what poetry should really do. I’ve seen this misconception held by “insiders” and “outsiders” alike.
I love a wide range of poetry. I want poetry to be varied. Sometimes I like to find my lived experiences echoed in a poem, but more often I love when poems take me into perspectives and situations that I couldn’t possibly experience on my own. The thing I most want in a poem is for it to haunt me in some way. When I keep recalling an image or a line, and when I’m still thinking about the poem’s content long after I’ve read it, that is the best sort of poetry for me.
We’ve just published Issue 3 of Whale Road Review, so I imagine that people still think of us as very new if they think of us at all, but I’ve gotten really positive feedback about the quality and variety of our content so far. Our contributors seem to enjoy the handwritten notes that I send them, and we do our best to get their work to readers on social media and to promote their other endeavors as well. Surprisingly, we’ve also gotten several compliments on our decline notices. People seem to be especially excited about our inclusion of creative writing pedagogy papers in addition to poetry, short prose, and reviews.
I don’t have regrets, but there are things that I didn’t publish that I wish I had. Two poems in particular stand out to me. In both cases, I loved the poems, but they didn’t rank as highly with the other reviewers, so they didn’t go into the journal. In hindsight, I wish I had published them anyway. Their images are still haunting me, and as I said before, that’s what I most want in a poem.
Katie Manning is the founding Editor-in-Chief of Whale Road Review and an Associate Professor of Writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. She is the author of four poetry chapbooks, and her first full-length collection, Tasty Other, is forthcoming in November as the 2016 winner of the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. She has received The Nassau Review Author Award for Poetry, and her writing has been published in Fairy Tale Review, New Letters, Poet Lore, So to Speak, Verse Daily, and many other journals and anthologies. Find her online at www.katiemanningpoet.com.
Next Week: Kaveh Akbar of Divedapper