Who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ in the world of poetry? I’m going to offer a definitive answer today on this blog. You can apply these pointers to your favourite poets and can also decide whether you yourself are ‘in’ or ‘out’.
1. If you enjoy reading Hallmark cards, but feel embarrassed to mention it, you may be in. If you tell everyone how much you love Hallmark cards, then you are maybe out.
2. If, when asked for your favourite poem, you reply with a song lyric, you are in.
3. If you desire your poems to be ‘accessible’ above all other considerations, then you might be in. If you then don’t succeed in being accessible, you are definitely in.
4. If you can’t understand your own poems, but people you don’t know seem to like them, you might well be out. If you start then believing your poems mean what these people say, you’re in danger of becoming in.
5. If your poems only get laughs when you perform them, you are in.
6. If you think reviewers are the enemy, you may think of yourself as anti-establishment and therefore out. In fact, you want only to be loved and are therefore in.
7. If you think strong drink tastes of meteorite, then you are out, even if a few people occasionally mistake you for being in.
8. If you have written a poem concerning a centipede which brushes your teeth using 100 dishwater tabs, then:
a) if it ends with a burst of light, water, death, or wind, you are in
b) if it ends in any other way, you might be out.
9. If you describe yourself as ‘avant-garde’ but are unable to write a metrical, rhymed sonnet inside 40 minutes, you are definitely in.
10. If you can write in metre and know the rules of scansion inside out, but a) regard TS Eliot as overrated, or b) hear voices in your head whispering ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum whenever you read the ingredients on cereal packets, you are in.
11. If you can write a 14-poem sonnet sequence, traditional or innovative, but can’t knock together an IKEA wardrobe from scratch, you are in.
12. If you think your poems’ forms or layouts determine whether you are in or out, then you are in.
13. If you think of yourself as adrift, a lone, unique voice unheard above a cacophony of poetic racket, then the louder and shriller your voice sounds when you think this, the more in you are.
14. If people who describe themselves as out describe you as in, then you are possibly out and they are probably in. If people who believe themselves to be in describe you as out, they are probably right.
15. If you think you are out because publishers have rejected your poems and book manuscripts, then you are either in or you are both a genius and out.
16. If you have never submitted a poem anywhere and don’t want anyone to read your poems, not even a tiny little bit, then you are out. But if you begin shouting about that from the rooftops, then you are in again.
17. If your poems resemble therapy sessions from new age gurus, then you’re in in in.
18. If you send nasty letters to editors of literary magazines who have rejected your work, then you desperately want to be in, and are out for all the wrong reasons.
19. If you enjoy poetry readings, you may be in or out. If you habitually buy the reader’s book, you might well be in, unless you often then read it from cover to cover, in which case you could be out. If you always tell them what you really think of it, you’re out, for certain.
20. If you have never as much as thought of writing a poem, then you are out and may even be happy about that.