I don’t hate Guns &; Roses. Quite the opposite, actually. At one point, their music is all I heard. It was an eventless, sad, sad time for me. Which is how I came to this observation:
At some point or the other, all of us are poets.
Everybody goes through a phase thinking that they’re this generation’s answer to Bob Dylan or Sylvia Plath. Most of us think we’re really good, no, seriously, I should publish man, it’s really deep stuff, know what I mean. We scribble serious sounding words in haphazard fashion and thanks to the blessing of free verse, we convince ourselves that it’s really the expression of our inner angst.
Sometimes it is.
At other times, it’s utter nonsense.
Most times, we can’t tell the difference. Those of us who can, realise that poetry is more than listening to a Bob Dylan line and going, dude, I gotta do that. It’s more than reading Sylvia Plath and thinking jeez, so your dad was scum, get over it, I mean, I can do better than that, y’know.
I think poetry, like any form of writing, is worth the reader’s time if it evokes a response. Any response. Love, hate, loathing, fear, laughter, gut-wrenching disgust, whatever. Even plain thought is enough.
If something you read inspires thought, feeling or action, it’s fulfilled its purpose.
Take any great writing down the years. Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. T. S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. Anything at all.
If there’s a surefire litmus test of literary genius, I think this is it. If you’re a writer, ask yourself this, is what you write forcing your readers to either think, feel or take some action? One out of three ain’t bad, two out three is fantastic, three out of three and can I have your autograph please?
Think about it. It may redeem this post.