Thursday, May 24, 2012

What I'm Fretting About- Grow It On Up, Boys

The point of this blog is to keep a list of things that I am reading, hearing, watching, seeing, thinking about while I am working on a new manuscript. Mostly I want to be able to go back and see how ideas sprouted and grew throughout the process and you're welcome to peek in as well if you like. I've been keeping a short list to catch up on during the end of the semester, so they'll be more this week.

But this entry is about what's driving me crazy right now, what I feel particularly sensitive to, what I'm noticing to my irritation. And it comes in two separate but related stages.

The first is men who dress like boys. I went to a reading the other night and both men, fully grown with university jobs, wives, children, partners, etc. had on some version of jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, headphones and other children's wear. Now, there's nothing really wrong with jeans and a t-shirt and the occasional pair of sneakers (although I still think those need to be reserved for the gym or other special events) and I have no more love for ties than I do for sneakers.

But what I'm really talking about is dressing like a little boy. Converse/Keds/hipster idiot sneakers. Vintage t-shirts (that the adult might have worn as a boy) of TV shows or bands or toys. Stupid filthy-looking jeans. Why this wears me out is directly related to the second part.

Both these guys read a series of works by other authors, many of which featured emotionally constipated men who ironically commented on everything from a great distance. There was not a real emotion to be found. (The one nice exception to this was a reading from Invisible Man. That's right- the man who could not be seen was the most emotionally present character of the evening.)

So I would like to officially announce I have had it right up to here with the emotionally absent male character- see my entry on Drive. Why have I reached this place? If men feel compelled to remain children who are incapable of recognizing or feeling their feelings, what is it to me? Obviously there are important ramifications for my life- I have a nephew, I have to live in a world primarily shaped by these men, and I truly believe everybody is typically happier when they are somehow aware of what they are feeling and have some healthy way to express that. I even feel bad that so many American men live in a world where that isn't possible for them. And these are all important effects.

But today's topic is how I  hate the effect this attitude has on literature, particularly poetry. I think poetry requires bravery- a poet has to be able to dive into and swim around some messy, messy places and then come back and talk about it. That's the poetry I'm interested in writing and reading. And I don't think all poetry has to do that- ironic, comedic, distanced poetry has a place. But the problem now is it has all the space.

This I blame on MFA programs. Emotionally-retarded boy poetry has somehow become the standard that all poetry is supposed to be- it's chalkablock in lit mags. I'm not saying it should all go away but neither should it be the only kind of poetry that finds a home, is taught, wins prizes, and gets reviewed.

It's even worse because I think the lionization of this kind of poetry is also at the expense of women. Women particularly are mocked and degraded if they don't produce what I've come to think of as 12-year old boy poetry, although there is also that strange arm of whispery, nature poetry that's open to women.

So I've decided to put this at the feet of American men. Men need to start acting like grown men, grown men who feel their real feelings, express them in healthy, respectful ways, and allow others to do the same. That might start with what they wear. If you don't want to live as a boy, don't dress like a boy. Grow up, boys, and drag the world of poetry along with you.