I considered abandonment tonight. Desertion. Fleeing away with my tail between my legs. Poet no more. And if not poet, what?

The reason? A bad review. Not just a review… a grade. Not a bad grade, but a critique that sent me down an existential spiral. Some key phrases:

As a reader I find it hard to discover the significance of several of these poems, a reason they were written, a reason I should read them. I look for humor, or satire, or a light but pointed comment on something that matters to me and seems to matter to the poet. But I don’t quite find those things.

And later:

If you enjoy writing light poems… I urge you to study light poems thoroughly. What makes them last? Usually two things: a wicked sense of humor (or a wicked eye for human foibles) and a wicked sense of form. Your sense of form is pretty good, but I think you are way too polite in these poems to make them memorable.

In other words, these are ok as exercises in form, but if your intention was “serious” light poetry, you are a miserable failure and a hack.

This is my fear. That I am a hack. I am not good enough even to be a comma in an e.e. cummings poem. These comments on my very hard fought portfolio of six formal poems leads me to ask, why should anyone read any of my poems? Why did I even feel the words needed to be grouped together to make them? Why can’t I take myself “seriously” even as a “light” poet? Why should I read what anyone has to write about? Why do any of us read or write anything at all? Why don’t I just curl up and die?

Ok, so I’m being over dramatic. But seriously, this class is not really the most conducive for writing brilliant masterpieces. I feel like my literature course is doing a better job at teaching me poetic technique than my forms class, which is the class that’s supposed to be teaching such things.

The other thing is, I didn’t think the poems were “light.” Maybe to a degree, because they were assignments, but that was not the intention. I did not sit down and say, What fluff can I produce today? Should I write more poems about eating disorders and suicide? Would that give me staying power? I just don’t know how to produce what is being asked for. What’s funny is that the only poem that had any handwritten comments on it was the one that was not spoken of as a “light” poem. Where’s the help? The guidance? And if I change these poems in significant ways, how do I make sure they’re still me?

I sometimes have problems with subject matter when I’m under pressure to produce. Call it performance anxiety. But in the past, I (and my workshop leaders or professors) have been satisfied with the quality of the output. Not so this time. Which means I either have to rattle off a couple of new metrical and formal poems and polish them up enough that they can be turned in as “real” poems by the end of the semester, or I must rebuild the old from the rubble that they have become. Either way, I have some tedious times ahead. But not to worry, after a short bedtime release of frustration and fear, I will push on.

What really irks me is the person who got an A+ (most likely accompanied by lavish praises from on high) is not a poet that I would ever read outside of academia, and I suspect I’m not the only one who wouldn’t.


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