Poetry is the Chicken Wing of Writing

Me: So, what did you do in school today?

Captain Jelly Belly, Age 15, Grade 10: We are doing poetry in English class, UGH.

Me: Oh, I kind of like poetry. What did you do?

CJB: We did this one about a wheelbarrow. It was so lame! There was like, eight words in it!

Me: Oh, William Carlos Williams! He’s great, but I can see your point. You have to work for it.

CJB: You have to work for all poetry. It’s like the chicken wing of writing. You do all this work to get this tiny little thing out of it, and then the chicken wing gets all the credit for being SO tasty, when you had to dig and dig for almost nothing.

Me: That is actually pretty brilliant.

CJB: I just don’t like the way you have to interpret everything. Everyone comes away thinking something different. They should just say what they want to say.

Me: But that’s the good thing. It’s like sharing something with the author. You and he together have made something and that something might be different than him and someone else.

CJB: That’s dumb. It’s like conspiracy theories. There’s like, eight words there, and you keep adding and adding and looking and looking and stringing things together until suddenly you magically connect it into one BIG IDEA and everyone freaks out. But really there’s NOTHING THERE on the page, and you have created a big fuss over nothing.

Me: You are kind of making me re-think all of poetry here.

CJB: Saving one lost jedi at a time, mom. It’s what I do.

7 thoughts on “Poetry is the Chicken Wing of Writing

  1. Fun!! 🙂

    I tried to entice mine to make the connection that many of the songs he listens to (classic rock mostly, not contemporary music, Zeppelin, Floyd, etc..) is a sort of poetry. This boggled my 13yo’s mind…he never made that connection.

  2. Mark Davis

    LOL. That’s one pretty dry quip at the end there, I love it.

    However, I will say that, while I’m not a connoisseur by any means, poetry is on the list of things that I totally didn’t get when I was younger but have gradually come to respect, understand, and to a certain extent, like, as I have grown older. (Also on that list: rap, AC/DC, but notably not the Rolling Stones.)

    And I’ll say one more thing about poetry: reading poetry silently to yourself is in many ways analogous to reading a musical score to yourself – someone who can read music well can get the “gist” of what the music will sound like, but it can never be more than a pale shadow of the experience of hearing it played by good musicians. So it is with poetry, I think – what makes poetry really magical is hearing it spoken aloud. It is more than just the words on the page – the *sound* of the words is an absolutely essential part of poetry; to experience it properly, you must read it aloud or listen to someone else reading it aloud.

    But, yeah, the conspiracy theory angle is also a good analogy. (And hilarious.)

  3. Zhu

    I don’t get poetry, I don’t enjoy poetry and I admire anyone who can write poetry.

    That said, I love analyzing literature and I find digging into the different layers absolutely fascinating. The downside is that it’s hard to read a book normally again (I’m still looking for metaphors, anaphoras, chiasmuses and other rhetoric tricks.

  4. Oh, you made me laugh out loud. I love the spontaneous conversations we have with our children/teens that turn out to be solid gold, and this is golden.
    I remember feeling that way when I was a teenager and studying in university, but now I can’t help but look for symbolism everywhere. It would be interesting to have the conversation with him again in a few decades and see if he feels the same way.

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