Look at me, pontificating about the significance of writing poetry and writing in general. Half of me feels like I have no right to make such judgments because I’m nineteen, what do I know about life, writing, why people write, and what kind of hard, slavish labor goes behind their work of twenty thirty forty years. But the other half, the half that prompts me to write things like this (the other half that also prompts me to write rants about shitty novels) wins and thus you are reading these words. Or maybe you’re just skimming. Whatever.

People hate poetry. I could never understand why in the past. How could they hate such musical words, such melodious written intonation and captivating imagery? How could they hate the human condition, the thoughts and feelings and emotions that cannot be parsed into other forms of communication as eloquently and beautifully as poetry? Why do we deem something a worthy poem?

I have no answer for that. Textbooks and writing workshops will tell you, don’t overuse the adverbs, cut out the gerunds, be more specific, linebreak here and here and here, this will convey a more effective dark tone, etc. All poetry and prose distilled only talk about ten “big things”, among them love and death, etc. Fine. Whatever. I used to be such a literary snob. I NEVER read trashy romance novels. I would always immerse myself in classy, cultural, inspirational things. I would always be seen in parks reading Plato or Shakespeare. Forget anything else. Everything has to be of literary merit. But why? I found myself reading things of literary merit simply because they had literary merit. I read for the sake of being able to namedrop, and that’s just disgusting and pretentious and wrong. Yes, I enjoy “quality literature”, books of literary merit, more than “trashy romance novels” where I get distracted because the sentence structure is awkward, but I had forgotten what it was like to read something for, first and foremost, the sake of ENJOYING it. One should always be true to himself/herself when it comes to anything, including literary taste. My favorite books aren’t my favorite books based on literary merit. I enjoy these authors because they make their worlds explode for me in a shower of color and sparks.

I like books

  • that have a lively and engaging story
  • where every sentence contributes to making the work as tight as it can be
  • where I care about the characters
  • where you can tell that the author obviously had fun writing it
  • that don’t take themselves too seriously.
  • that are made with love. More love than blood or sweat or tears. Love.
  • ^I realize how hippy dippy I sound there, but still.
  • that keep me reading all night or at least make me want to go back
  • with lots of color. Not on the cover, but in the words. When I read Nabokov or Francesca Lia Block, I see in so many vibrant colors.

I do not like

  • lofty language for the sake of lofty language
  • excessive namedropping of famous books/pieces of poetry unless it’s extremely well explained or it’s something everyone knows. seriously. I find it very annoying and pretentious to go through a book where every other sentence is a reference to something else. Paying homages are great, but not when it detracts from the story.
  • whiny characters.
  • Grayness. I don’t know, but sometimes when I read I don’t “see” anything except dull gray, and consequently makes the writing dull. I’m sure other people see the subtle hints of color in the words, but I just see gray.
  • writing that tries too hard to sound intelligent and ends up sounding like the author threw a thesaurus at the computer screen.

Blah blah blah. etc. I like books. Lightheartedness is great. Right now I’m reading Pnin by Nabokov and it’s fantastically funny; Nabokov’s sense of humor is the kind I enjoy the most. He so casually drops things like “his sandwich was half unwrapped, his dog was dead” where you least expect it and he still manages to be so beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. Yes, that was quite necessary.

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