July 20, 2004

Poetic Grief

This made me laugh, laugh, laugh (This is excerpted from a much larger piece).

Here for your amusement, are Joan Houlihan's Five Stages of (Poetry) Reader Grief:

Given a reasonably intelligent reader, the default explanation for his or her not being able to understand even a smidgen of the poem cited seems to be that they have not been properly educated in the art of reading. Therefore, their reading takes a predictable course, one that follows Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief:

1. Denial

This stage is filled with disbelief and denial. You can't believe someone seriously wrote these words and presented them as something worthy of your attention.

2. Anger/Resentment

Anger at the situation, the baffling words in front of you, the poet and his or her poem, perhaps others-- reviewers, editors or book publishers--is common in this stage. You are angry at them all for causing the situation and for causing you pain.

3. Bargaining

You try to negotiate with yourself to change the experience of reading this poem. You see the poem as an isolated instance, something idiosyncratic and not likely to recur. You make deals with yourself to “work harder” and “read more” poems of this type, to “give them a chance” when you're not so tired. You might bargain with God, "I'll be a more disciplined and patient reader if you'll just give me a hint as to what this one means."

4. Depression

You realize the situation isn't going to change. The poem happened, it was published, you will never understand it or why anyone sees value in it, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Acknowledgement of the situation often brings depression. This could be a quiet, withdrawn time.

5. Acceptance

Though you haven't forgotten what happened, you are able to begin to move forward and approach another poem, try to begin again.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at July 20, 2004 08:25 AM

I usually stop at stage 4. My stage 5 involves realization that I am not "reasonably intelligent" in the slightest, and am, in fact, a moron who shouldn't be allowed near books.

Posted by: fad at July 20, 2004 09:12 AM

Funny. When there was a "poet" regularly attending a writer's group I was a member of I had to replace Acceptance with Critique which invariably brought me back to # 2.

Posted by: Norman at July 20, 2004 10:46 AM

Ah, the use of Kubler-Ross brings a tear to my psychology instructor-ial eye...

Or is it psychotic instructor?

Either way, fine use of Kubler-Ross. I've never seen it applied to poetry before.

Posted by: di at July 20, 2004 05:35 PM