I was checking in on one of my FaceBook Groups (for poets) today when I saw a post entitled “Down with rubbish poetry!”. Being the person I am, I had to go read it. I wish I hadn’t because it really ticked me off.
A member was deciding to start their own group for “serious poets” and had made a post about the “rubbish” stating: “Poems that are only about how you feel are self indulgent, boring pieces of cr@p that no discerning reader would ever care about. Keep them to yourself for goodness sake. Or put a bit more thought into it and write something interesting using craftmanship and skill. Don’t know how? Read some poetry books. Don’t have any poetry books? Read some good poetry online.” This person also suggests looking for “rubbish” poetry, and telling the writers that it is such.
Really? I seriously wonder who died and made this person the God of Poetry. I’m not going to name names, because this person has the right to think whatever they want. However, I think it was rude, and quite frankly, wrong.
Poetry is supposed to be about expressing oneself. There is no right or wrong way to write poetry. I had a very wonderful teacher who actually admonished me for constant rhyming and trying to follow styles I thought to be “right” when it came to poetry. When I began writing from the heart, and threw style out the window, he said I’d finally become a good poet.
And what’s wrong with writing about our own feelings? If I write about my feelings, and a reader can relate, and feels the emotion of the piece, then I believe I have done well. When another writes of their emotions, and I feel it through their work, I’d say they did well also. I believe every poet should write from the heart, not write what someone else tells them they should be writing about.
I am especially appalled at the idea that one should go around telling others that their work is garbage. Now, I’m all for constructive criticism. If you don’t think someone’s work is good, then tell them what’s wrong, and be sure it is unbiased, objective advice. You not personally liking a piece doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means it’s not for you. I have read famous poetry and thought it was junk, but the fact that I didn’t like it doesn’t mean it was bad, it just didn’t suit my taste. So constructive, objective criticism is fine. For instance, I saw a piece on that group which had no capitalization, no punctuation, poor and repetitive word use, and no flow whatsoever. If I had chosen to, I might have suggested that they try breaking up the lines, using punctuation, and keeping a thesaurus handy for more creative word options. I would not tell them it was a piece of rubbish, even if I thought it was.
Needless to say, I won’t be joining the new group. I love my work, and even readers who didn’t care for the subject matter have told me it’s all very well written. I’d rather be part of a group that encourages writers to compose with feeling, explore various writing styles or the lack thereof, and gives them confidence with constructive criticism and praise when warranted.
If you’re a writer, don’t ever let someone tell you your writing is junk. If they can’t tell you why without entering their personal preferences into it, they’re not worth listening to. Write what you feel, and how you feel it. If you want to write about your emotions, do it. If you want to write about the beauty of a streetlight or the ocean on a moonlight night, do that. Do what feels right for you. Only listen to criticism that helps you find yourself and make your work better, not the type that tries to make you write to suit someone else’s tastes.