I wrote about poetry last week, which means I should probably give it a rest and write about something more people love, since in my experience, the people who love poetry are greatly outnumbered by those who hate it or find it confusing, or even are frightened by the odd line breaks or the possibility of rhyme. The people who do love it tend to fall into two groups – one side proudly carrying the banner of that love while the other loves it quietly, alone. People who hate poetry, on the other hand, seem to come in a rainbow of unexpected opinions about what poetry is or isn’t, and why they never read it or write it or even stand in the general vicinity of that section of the bookstore.
Most of my friends fall into the “hate it gently” category; for my sake, they pretend it’s only silly, when deep down, I expect that they absolutely loathe it. That’s okay with me. I still love them, and it allows me to hate things some of the things they love with much less guilt. I even understand it, although it still surprises me when I meet smart, well-read people who dislike not just a poet or a type of poetry but the entire genre with fierce determination.
I never try to force poetry on them because I know just how irritating it is when someone tries to convince me I’ll love something I already know I don’t, or won’t (soup, for example, or Mad Men). When I read a book like Letter Composed During a Lull in Fighting though, I find myself wishing I could strong-arm people into reading it because Powers is the kind of poet non-poetry fans could love, if only they gave him a chance. I, on the other hand, needed no convincing. I read four pages of his book before I knew, without a doubt, that it was coming home with me, and by the time I finished it (and for the record, I made myself read it over the course of a week because it was deserving of the extra time), I wanted to smear his words everywhere, on everyone, and have them see how perfect, and easy, and unbelievably painful poetry could be.
Reading it inspired me to pull out an old poetry project I had discarded a few years ago, and it also had me writing new poetry, which I haven’t done in over a year. It had me tuning into the news during my interval training at the gym because I didn’t want to be as disconnected and ignorant of the trauma he wrote about as I was when I started it. It was one of those books that influenced me for the better, but was also an amazing read in its own right; any writer will tell you that a book like that is both a joy and a kick in the ass.
This doesn’t happen very often, but this once, I wish my word were enough to convince people to read Powers’ book. It won’t be, of course. People who skirt around poetry will continue to do so, and even people who read and love poetry will mostly doubt how good it could really be. A few of you will go out and get it, or nod knowingly, having already found this book, or his first one, The Yellow Birds. And maybe in a year or ten, I’ll have forced a copy into enough hands that the desire to share it will dim, and I’ll go back to accepting that certain things are meant to be loved quietly, and alone.
For more about Kevin Powers, go here. Or, if you want to see what difference one letter in a url makes, go here and see an elephant jumping on a trampoline. It’s much more beautiful than you’d expect.