Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In and Out

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.


Silver Sage said...

Well, I guess I am "in"! I love to stand in Hallmark aisles and read the cards and smile. I often wonder what people think as they pass and see me so enjoying myself. So, if you are "in" as well, you might enjoy my poetry blog at http://www.silverplanet.com/blog/silver-sage.

Frances said...

Hallelujah, hallelujah ...

Ms Baroque said...

Rob, as my dear uncle said to me all those years ago, I think you must be either a genius or crazy.

We never worked out the answer first time round either. I'll go do your quiz again. Somehow I think I'm probably out though.

Ms Baroque said...

By the way, I've linked. And I have to say once again, though maybe I never did say the first time, how much I love your author pic. I am so jealous. Why can't I be cool like you?

Andrew Philip said...

You do a quick sestina and you turn around ...

Andrew Philip said...

If the green wing of Baroque mansions has enough space, Katy, I'll join you in the photo envy!

deemikay said...


After that, who knows? No. 16 is the awkward one, no? Do I protest too much? Perhaps I should be with Wittgenstein on this one and just stay very, very quiet from now on...

PS I enjoyed this very much!

Colin Will said...

I am the hokey-kokey.

BarbaraS said...

What about if you can write a sonnet sequence and put together an Ikea wardrobe...? Better still, write a 14 sonnet sequence about putting the Ikea wardrobe together - but I'm sure that's been done before...

Liz said...

: ) Barbara, Ikea wardrobe and sonnet sequence...the ultimate in being In... : ) What about non-stop haiku while simultaneously putting together a ginnormous dog-house from Leroy Merlin? - out, out, out, I reckon!

Rob, what's to say - gobsmackingly good! cheers!

(word verification: eargob)

Andrew Philip said...

"eargob"! That's great.

David Floyd said...

"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."

I can't do either of these things.

Ms Baroque said...

David, you're out. That'll be two pantoums, written in pantaloons.

Andy, your pic is great too.

I can actually write sonnets AND put together ikea furniture - I have put together more of it than I care to remember, but my thumbs were sore and cracked for weeks.

But where's Rob?? By the way, I saw this post also linked in India.

Rob said...

I've been out, but I'm just in, and am about to go out again. My life is about as confusing as most of yours seem to be. Your questions about being in and out are too hard for me to answer. My rules are obviously not clear enough, even for me.

Katy, thanks for linking. And the Indian link, thanks too. It's from spaniardintheworks.blogspot.com, which looks like quite a good blog.

Dana said...

I am so confused. Do I want to be in? out? Is it possible to be both in *and* out, standing in the vestibule between the two? Am I in if I use words like vestibule? What if I confuse the words "vestibule" and "vertebrae"? "Elevator" and "escalator"?

I can't put IKEA furniture together. I guess that means, in or out, I am hosed.

SB said...

I'm confused. Also ambivalent.

Also ambiguous.

Not in; not out. Just out there.

[Wonderful post.]

Rachel Fox said...

Ikea is SO out. But out of what?

Dominic Rivron said...

What a fun list. You reminded me of the joke about the two skunks. (Called In and Out. When In was out, Out was in and when Out was in, In was Out. One day when Out was in he needed to find In in a hurry and went out looking for him. How did he find him? Instinct) :)

My favourite, by the way, was point 4.

Rob said...

Well, this is it, it's not only hard to know whether one is in or out, but whether it's more desirable to be in one state or the other. And it's not easy to know what there is to be in or out of in any case. So I'm confident that ambivalence and skunks hold part of the answer.