Poetry for People Who Hate Poetry

by Nick Bernard on April 9, 2012

“April is the cruelest month,” begins T.S. Eliot’s magnum opus “The Wasteland.” April is also National Poetry Month, but it’s safe to assume that’s not why Eliot seems so bummed about spring. For many, though, the thought of a whole month of poetry is indeed unbearably cruel. How will you survive April if you hate poetry?  Keep these books of poetry close at hand while the lilacs breed out of the dead land.

The Rose That Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur

The Rose that Grew From Concrete by Tupac Shakur

Before hitting the mainstream with multi-platinum albums, prison, shootings, and “Dear Mama,” Tupac penned a book of passionate, sensitive poetry. Punctuated with alternative spellings and ideograms in place of words, The Rose That Grew from Concrete is a vivid account of Tupac’s early life. To me, this is a classic example of a poet at odds with the mainstream image of poetry, and, at the very least, a fantastic coffee table book.

Why you won’t hate it:

2 me your name alone is poetry
I barely know u and already
I can’t explain this feeling I feel

(from “1 For April” and, again, probably not about National Poetry Month)

Collected Poems by Philip Larkin

Collected Poems by Philip Larkin

If you’ve had any contact with poetry, chances are you’ve read Philip Larkin, the famously misanthropic English writer who declined the poet laureateship and spent most of his adult life sulking around the University of Hull library. Despite his cynicism, racism, and general ant-social disposition, Larkin is considered one of the great English poets of the late twentieth century. Larkin would seem a prime target for anyone disavowing poetry for its pretentious and stuffy nature; some of his poems, however, with their angst and sexual frustration, wouldn’t seem out of place in any modern teenager’s Facebook timeline.

Why you won’t hate it:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

 (from “This Be the Verse”)

Crow by Ted Hughes

Crow by Ted Hughes

Sylvia Plath is well-known for her volumes of poetry and roman à clef, The Bell Jar, but perhaps less-known—at least in America—is the poetry of her husband, Ted Hughes.  Crow is a wild ride. Centered on the mythic everyman figure of Crow, the volume is by turns dark, violent, and funny. Mostly, though, it’s stanza after stanza of sheer terror. If this little book of verse doesn’t get your blood flowing, you shouldn’t be reading.

Why you won’t hate it:

“Well,” said Crow, “What first?”
God, exhausted with Creation, snored.
“Which way?” said Crow, “Which way first?”
God’s shoulder was the mountain on which Crow sat.
“Come,” said Crow, “Let’s discuss the situation.”
God lay, agape, a great carcass.

Crow tore off a mouthful and swallowed. 

(from “Crow Communes”)

Either Way I’m Celebrating by Sommer Browning

Either Way I'm Celebrating by Sommer Browning

Sommer Browning belongs to a small but burgeoning group in American letters: the poet-tweeter. It’s easy to see how the economy of her witty, scathing, and sometimes cringe-inducing tweets carries over into her verse. Her first book, Either Way I’m Celebrating, is a collection of poems and comics about adolescence and adulthood—and how awkward their intersection is.

Why you won’t hate it (from @vagtalk):

“The problem with writing poetry is you eventually become the type of person that writes poetry.”

“I hope the worst thing I do today is delete a Groupon for donuts.”

“I always thought MILF meant Moms I’d Like to Free from the constraints of patriarchy :(“

“I didn’t drink alcohol for nearly 5 days. I don’t know how babies do it.”

“It’s totally true, I’ve never seen an episode of The Young and the Restless where someone just kicks back and gets some rest.”

It is Daylight by Arda Collins

It is Daylight by Arda Collins

In her foreword, Louise Glück compares the speaker in Arda Collins’ It is Daylight to Eddie Murphy’s Saturday Night Live parody of Mr. Rogers: both bar themselves from the outside world, and they both want to talk. For Collins’ persona, the topics range from avoiding the ice cream man to asking god what she should eat for dinner. What makes this poetry come alive is how paradoxically weird and common the occasions for these poems are. The boredom and solitude of contemporary life is mirrored back to us in Collins’ speaker, and what we see is shocking in its foreignness. Read It is Daylight and you’ll never feel the same about making a sandwich again.

Why you won’t hate it:

God’s going to a dinner

where they’re having lamb chops

and veal stuffing with

roasted almonds and fig sauce and

Brussels sprouts buttered with pistachios.

And after, they’re going to have

pear clafoutis behind a velvet curtain

and drive their skulls into the center of a diamond.

(from “Snow On the Apples”)

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