I Wish I Liked Poetry More



Here's the thing, I don't particularly enjoy poetry.

There. I said it. Phew... I feel lighter already.

Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of poetry. And in my best moments I can appreciate really good poetry. Furthermore, I really want to like poetry. It's just that I don't.

Maybe it's because I struggle to "get it," half the time. Because as much as I value things like "embracing mystery" and "sitting in the tension" and those sorts of things, the bottom line is that my default position is one that prefers things to make sense.

In other words, my mind begins at places like: answers, organization, analyze, systematize, clarity, purpose, making sense.

And then, because I see the value in them, I work towards places like: questions, chaos (or, at least organized-chaos), fluidity, ambiguity, tension, and mystery.

Over the past 10 years, especially, I have moved a lot in that direction. Growing up, and all through college, I thrived on being the Answer Guy. This mentality was strengthened during college primarily because my Alma Mater stands firmly rooted in an expression of conservative Christianity that elevates the right answers (aka, doctrine) over everything else. So "having the right answers" was paramount. I thrived in that environment.

But after graduation I slowly was exposed to the liberating notion that "I don't know" is a perfectly adequate (and at times, actually preferred) answer to questions. Which would have horrified previous versions of myself. And so, over the past 10 years, my spiritual journey in particular (but overall life in general) has become more and more comfortable with mystery and not-knowing and being okay with things that don't make sense.

Which I'm really grateful for. I like this aspect of my life. It's been good for me, I think, and good for the people around me, and for the people I've been a pastor to.

There is deep value in accepting and at times even celebrating things that don't make sense.

And yet, poetry.

Transcending my linear, analytical brain for the sakes of enjoying poetry? That particular maneuver continue to alludes me.

I read Wendell Berry and Maya Angelou and I think, "I know this stuff is good, I'm sure of it... but I just don't get it." And I remain unmoved. Uninspired. Uninterested.*

Poets? Yeah, I love and enjoy them. I love the way they can do what I cannot. I respect their ability to weave together words and rhythm and cadence and prose, in ways that I would never consider. And I can appreciate the work of their hands, the heart, and their head.

But in the end, I just don't get poetry.

Thanks for listening.

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*Shel Silverstein. He'd be one exception. I like his work a lot. Well, his children's books that is. I haven't read his other stuff. So maybe it's the pictures I like...