The Official Light-Switch-Line Poetry Dare, as extended to Ed Cyzewski:
In How to Read a Poem, Tania Runyan talks about the “aha moment, ” when a poem kind of lights up the soul, the way flicking a switch can light up a room. This moment often comes before understanding and can lead to wanting to understand more, though that’s not required. A person can simply enjoy his “aha moment” and leave it at that.
Tweetspeak Poetry dares Ed Cyzewski to read a poem a day (Monday-Friday) for 30 days. We’ll provide the daily poem with a free subscription to Every Day Poems, and we’ll watch for the simple act of tweeting the #lightswitchline. An opening and closing post about the experience will be part of the deal.
A Poetry Dare. I Really Don’t Care
If you want to punish me, send me a poem to read.
That’s probably a little too harsh. Perhaps we should qualify that: send me a free verse poem to read.
I’m a former English major who really should have been a writing major, but all of the pressure to find a legitimate career, other than writer that is, sent me in the direction of literature so that I could learn how to think and analyze for a future company who would hire me to do I don’t know what. Along the way to my very practical business career that never panned out, I had to read a bunch of poems.
Poetry, especially the free verse variety, isn’t my favorite. It often strikes me as too unruly and open and random. I like order and structure. I’m the consummate rule follower. I look at free verse poetry a bit like school kids look at modern art.
I’m exposed to the best and the worst of poetry every day through my son’s books. The highest of the form being the slow, meditative pace of Goodnight Moon, and the worst being a group of books that have Yoda-like phrases in order to wrench a rhyme out of them. I’m looking at you, Thomas the Tank Engine.
I can appreciate the art of songwriting with imagery, rhymes, and metaphors in the work of singer/songwriter Josh Ritter. His song “The Temptation of Adam” beautifully juxtaposes a boy-meets-girl story against the backdrop of pending nuclear war and somehow sells us on the romantic notion that the passionate love of two people could endure even if the world was blown to pieces.
I can appreciate a poem with a bit of meter, some rhymes, and a coherent idea or image. I just lose interest—and quickly—when there’s no structure and I’m pawing my way through a word salad. Obscurity and disjointed ideas can stand in for depth and meaning that I’m supposed to ponder quietly or something. Perhaps most of all—please don’t hate me—it seems that so many poems, especially the free verse ones, are just so self-consciously attempting to be deep. It’s as if the ideas in these poems are supposedly so deep and important that they transcend structure and rules.
Cue an epic eye roll.
I don’t know. Maybe I am just a lazy reader. Perhaps I need to appreciate the art of poetry a bit more. Perhaps I do need to slow down. If there’s one thing I’m aware of, it’s how hard it is to be self-aware. You never know how badly you’ve been limping until you stop to rest a little and finally recover long enough to walk properly, right? Perhaps a bit of poetry is the precise change of pace I need.
Lastly, this whole poetry dare is connected to Tania Runyan’s new book on how to read a poem, and I really like Tania Runyan. I can’t remember who friended whom on Facebook, but her status updates have made enduring Zuckerberg’s nosey little algorithm worth it—NO PRESSURE, TANIA. So if by taking this dare I can at least expose a few of my friends to her work, then it has been worthwhile.
Bring on the poems for 30 days. I promise to at least try to be a little less cynical about poetry.