Unpopular Opinion: All Poetry is Good Poetry
I read a lot of poetry, in a lot of different styles: Wordsworth, Keats, Sexton, Czaga, Ginsberg, Plath, Peters (and far too many more to list). Each of these poets has their own unique style, and there’s no question in my mind whether they can be considered poets or not.
Recently, I’ve seen critiques online about how Rupi Kaur’s poetry isn’t real poetry. In fact, it’s hardly anything at all; a few lines of very simple, very universal thoughts shouldn’t be considered poetry. I’ve actually heard one person say that a child could write it. Maybe not a five year old, but I wouldn’t say it takes much skill – just an outflow of emotion.
Now, while I agree with them about it being simple, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, the best poetry comes from a place of simplicity and clarity (like Hemingway’s six word memoir). Sometimes what we need is a short, straight to the point snapshot of emotion to really feel something, and Kaur’s poetry (and all the poetry that has followed suit since then) gives us just that.. some of the time.
They’re right, though; it is simple, and it is relatively universal. But that’s why so many people enjoy it, that’s why it’s popular – it’s something they, and pretty much anyone, can relate to. It’s the most basic of emotions displayed in a straightforward, easy to comprehend way, and most people who read it can link it to something they’ve felt at one time or another in their lifetime.
The Problem with Simple Poetry
On the other side of the argument, sometimes simplicity can be.. boring. A lot of the time, when I read a poem, I want something that makes me feel something. Although I can relate to a lot of Kaur’s poems, they don’t make me feel much of anything other than a vague sense of “I’ve felt this before.” There’s no punch to the gut or emotional rollercoaster.
And it doesn’t compare to more complex poetry. My favourite books right now are “For Your Safety Please Hold On” by Kayla Czaga, and “1996” by Sara Peters; both weave poignant events in their life into affecting, emotionally gripping poems. Even if you haven’t experienced the exact same event, such as having a crush on your babysitter or sitting in your landlord’s kitchen fantasizing about potential loves, you’re able to empathize them.
In the past, I felt a strong connection to the type of poetry Kaur writes, because of its straight to the point style. Because I was drawn to it, I wrote poetry like it. It was important for me to get my feelings out in short, compact blurbs.
That’s what I needed then, but what I needed to read has changed. More and more I’m finding that I have a stronger connection with poems like the ones Czaga and Peters write; their use of descriptions, scene, and form draw me in closer than Kaur’s poetry ever could. As my tastes have evolved, so has my writing style.
What I’d like to say is that it’s okay if you enjoy reading and writing simple poetry, but it’s also okay if you don’t. Read and write what you’re drawn to, but don’t ridicule the stuff you don’t like. Styles change throughout the years; not many people still read and write in the style of seventeenth century poets, but that doesn’t mean it’s inherently bad.
And be careful when you say that something isn’t poetry. Whoever wrote the poem you’re critiquing felt it to be important to them at some point in their life; it came from a genuine place of emotion, and because of that, it was true and valid to them. Even if you think it’s simple or obvious, it still held meaning for them at one point or another.