I have noticed a tendancy here for some folks to describe themselves as "not serious poets." That's a good thing. I'm all for it.
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You see, I have a problem with "seriousness." I have been accused of being "not a serious person." Guess what? I'm not. But I'd like to clarify for you that I do, in fact, take poetry seriously. I just don't take myself particularly seriously. That turns some "business-like" people and some "art-must-be-difficult" types off.
My dad, who is the wisest man on the planet, once told me that there's a big difference between taking your work seriously and taking yourself seriously. He is a psychiatrist who takes his work very seriously. He just turned 66 and still puts in about sixty-five hours a week. He does OK, but he ain't rich or nothin'. Does it to help people. Very serious about his work. Just not about himself.
He taught me the difference when I was about ten or so and got kinda puffed up about having a lead role in a show at our church. I believe I was playing King Nebuchadnezzar in the ever popular youth musical, "Cool in the Furnace." Old Testament wrath meets the song stylings of a 1970's Burt Bacharach wannabe.
[Meanwhile, back at the actual point...]
"Look," Dad said. "Take your work seriously, but don't take yourself so seriously."
"What's the difference?" I asked.
"Taking the work seriously means showing up on time, learning your lines, not goofing off when you should be quiet. Taking yourself seriously, though, means thinking you're something special. That you're already good enough and don't have to improve. Thinking that way makes it harder for you to learn and improve. It also makes you harder to live with. Hint, hint."
I didn't agree. I was ten, and, therefore, a total moron. "I don't see the difference," I said. "If you take the work seriously, you'll have to take yourself seriously."
"Look at the doctors on the TV show 'MASH,'" he explained. "Are they good doctors?"
"Do they take their jobs seriously? Do they do everything they can for their patients? Even when it's really hard and gets them in trouble?"
"Who's the one guy on the show that's kind of a jerk?"
"What's-his-name. The jerk."
"Burns. Major Frank Burns. And we think he's a jerk because why?"
It took me a minute, but I got it in one.
"Because he takes himself more seriously than he takes his work."
Thanks, Pop. Another good lesson. Too bad it took 20 years for it to sink in.
Look into my (supposed) depths and you will surely find many faults. I am often inappropriately frank. Not Frank Burns. Just frank. Candid. I talk too much and am a little loud. OK, more than a little. Partly because I'm a bit hard of hearing and partly because I get worked up and partly because I'm just a loud bastard. I drive too slow when it's snowing and I like TV shows and videogames that are intended for children [Once again, the day is saved by... the Powerpuff Girls!] I clearly do not take myself too seriously. If you find that troubling, move along to the next wordsmith and no hard feelings.
But know this: I always, always, always take the poetry seriously. Even the funny poems. Maybe them even more so.
I've never met a "serious poet" I really liked. But I've met and liked lots of neat, fun, deep, naughty, interesting people who write serious poetry. So far, lit.org seems to be long on the latter and short on the former. Good for us. The serious poets can go down to the cafe and drink espresso and act all poet-y. I'll take a band of "just us chickens" who'd rather spend their time writing than pimping.
Poetry is for everyone. Anyone who takes the time and puts in the effort and is true to their purpose can write serious poetry.
And if you don't think so... well, kiss my assonance.
I blog irregularly at TinkerX. I'm also on Twitter. @andyhavens, go figure.