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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.

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, 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.

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The following comments are for "Serious vs. Serious"
by andyhavens

I enjoyed reading that. I think I know what you mean...I've never considered myself a serious poet (I'm a science major, for chrissakes ^_^) but I do enjoy jotting one down now and then. :) Don't know how serious my poetry is though! lol one of them is about a pimple...

Anyway, this was my favorite line:

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.

LOL...I too personally enjoy poetry from someone who sees life through the eyes of us lowly human beings than from someone who thinks that they have had some exalted gift bestowed upon them. :)

( Posted by: polarqueen [Member] On: July 5, 2004 )

Sounds like we have a lot in common.

You make a wonderful point about being serious about work, but not taking yourself too seriously. I really like that comment, probably because it struck very close to home.

I love to joke around and have a good time. I知 not much of a practical joker; just enjoy making fun of situations. Some of my co-workers wonder how the heck I get anything done. It always seems like I知 playing around. I make fun of just about every situation, and I知 never shy to share it. Like you, I知 also a very loud person (actually, I prefer extroverted myself). The thing is, I知 very serious about my work.

Just today, I was sitting in on a train-the-trainer session. It痴 supposed to get me prepared to deliver a new course. I had fun and kept a lighthearted mood throughout the day, but I am very cognizant of what is required of me. The people that come to my sessions are going to expect to get a lot out of the time they invested, so I need to be prepared.

Whether it is work related or writing fiction, most of my serious work occurs in the early morning hours (typically around 6-7 am). My mind runs at about 100 miles a minute. Those are my favorite moments, because I get so much done.

I致e only just started playing around with writing fiction. Most of the stuff I put together is just experimentation, but I expect to learn something from each piece.

By the way, I loved MASH.

( Posted by: Nbiz [Member] On: July 6, 2004 )

Seriously, folks!
Yes! Exactly, Mr. Havens... (May I call you Andy?)

and may I join the 'Just Us chickens' club? Please?


I've always thought that to be a 'poet' you must take poetry seriously and therefore,if you take poetry seriously, you must NOT take yourself seriously...

which is just a convoluted way of reiterating what you have more clearly and entertainingly stated.

Again, heeeee.

I love your very wise father's analogy to M*A*S*H. You are very fortunate to have had him to guide you and lay the foundation for your life.

I have truly enjoyed reading your writings,


( Posted by: Serenem [Member] On: July 7, 2004 )

^ i agree with that. there's a couple people around here that i can see in a starbucks sipping their latte, tap-tap-tapping their elitist shoes, and rehashing history that approximately 1% of the world cares about. i try and distance myself from those types. they don't seem real to me.

( Posted by: die_daily [Member] On: July 9, 2004 )


Sorry I took so long to find this but I usually hang around the serious section, the poetry. I am surprised to find such a serious piece written here amongst the blogs.

After reading this profound blog, I must say that I feel you have given this extremely serious consideration and glad you you took the view that if we were interested in progressing our futur ambitions in respect to literature we should take serious consideration as to how relate to ourselves as we aproach this.

I should think that if you father was reading this, wherever he is now, he would be proud of the fact that you absorbed this serious lesson of life and are sharing it.

And having a bloody good laugh!

I agree with you Andy I laugh 'with' others and 'at' myself!


( Posted by: Ivordavies [Member] On: July 10, 2004 )

This was a great piece of writing.
I agree with everything you said. I'll not write anything about myself because, well, that's not the point of a comment, is it? The point is, you are right on (to hark back to the 70's and M*A*S*H).

( Posted by: Cyn [Member] On: October 30, 2004 )

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