6 ways to woo a poet
Who better to tell us how to seduce a poet than poets themselves? We asked some of our readers for the 2013 CBC Poetry Prize how they'd want to be seduced and their answers span everything from free food to wing tips to... a Canadian Tire gift card. (See? Poets can be practical, too.)
"Start by buying their book, and maybe wear something sharp and futuristic so you can tell them you've time-travelled back from a later century, where they’re appreciated."
1. FEED THEIR EGO
1. FEED THEIR EGO
—Alex Boyd, author of The Least Important Man
2. FEED THEIR BELLIES
"Above all, feed her. Whether you’ve met her at a reading or other literary event, or through online dating, she will likely be hungry. Don’t let the little black dress and the nice earrings fool you (they’re ancient); she’s probably poor. Forgive her inattentiveness. If she’s looking past you, it only means she’s wondering where the food and drinks table is. She’s much nicer when she’s sated. Do not bring a sheaf of paper and offer to read her your stuff on the first date; she’s trying to get a break from paper. If you are not a writer, don’t say 'I think I’ll write a book one of these days.' A vet said this to me at a cocktail party once and I replied, 'I know the feeling. When I get sick of writing, I like to spay and neuter a few pets after dinner myself.'”
—Carmelita McGrath, author of Escape Velocity
3. DON'T TREAT THEM LIKE POETS
"I think one of the bigger misconceptions people have about poets is that they're 'poets.' Erudite, witty, flouncy, soulful, free-spirited, beholden to no one, the works. That stereotype. Some really are that way and some try very hard to fit that mold and, honestly, I've met far more of the latter than the former. But most poets are average people who happen to write poetry sometimes. Nothing more. If you want to seduce a 'poet,' flatter them, gush about their writing, indulge them. Don't say you think poetry is 'pretty cool,' either, you philistine."
If you want to seduce a regular person who happens to write poetry sometimes, be nice, communicate, capitalize on mutual interests. Treat them the way you'd like to be treated. Pretty simple. Food is always good. Maybe a short walk somewhere nice? A hug at the end?
Keep in mind, someone looking for a 'poet' to be with will inevitably find one, but there are a lot of lonely, single people who just happen to write poetry sometimes out there. Take that as you will."
—Grant Loveys, author of Our Gleaming Bones Unrobed
4. LIKE WHAT THEY LIKE
"Poets are no more romantic than anyone else, actually. Find out what they are interested in, say, wild mushroom hunting, or astronomy, or 17th-century violin making. Or Batman movies. Cooking. Growing pot. Their own ego. You know, the usual."
—Katherine Bitney, author of Firewalk
5. GIVE THE GIFT (CARD) THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
"Despite the rumours, I think most poets are the least romantic people on the planet. Having an impractical job means yearning for practical things. Give a Canadian Tire gift certificate with the promise of fixing something in their broken down house. I guess it’s easier to know how not to woo a poet. For one, don’t write a poem. It’ll come back critiqued, with all the cliché s crossed out in red pen and instead of a roll in the hay, you’ll end up embroiled in a serious discussion on the importance of thinking through your line breaks."
—Sarah Tsiang, author of Status Update
6. WOW THEM, BUT GENTLY
"First off, read their poems. If you don't like the poems, seduce someone else. Your poet will be reading these to you for the rest of your life, or at least as long as you can stand to hang around. For your own sake, like the poems first. Poets (self absorbed, distracted) are, at first, incredibly hard to attract. BUT, once you have their attention, that attention is akin to a laser beam. You won't be able to shake them. In the meantime:
- Hang out by the EXIT sign at their readings. Poets are skittish, so don't crowd them. Wait for them come to you. If your poet isn't yet in recovery from years of alcoholism and drug addiction, you may attempt to lure them with beer and wine, but don't overstep your bounds. If you get overgenerous early on, your poet may feel beholden and avoid you, possibly for years.
- Be devastatingly gorgeous. There is no good reason for this, but poets attract gorgeous people. They just do. So, if you are gorgeous, you've got a real chance with a poet. If you are not gorgeous, at least smell like clean laundry. Or own a private jet. That'll get their attention.
- Be a natty dresser. Poets (despite their protestations) are fashionable people. Wing tip shoes? Yes. Fur coat and cowgirl boots? Yes. Yes. Totally yes.
- Be entertaining, you charming gorgeous bastard. Play a guitar, mandolin, or ukelele. Promise road trips. Promise food. Deliver on both. And when you've got your poet's attention, give them small adorable gifts like plastic harmonicas or finger puppets or a book of matches so they will always remember this charming, charming day they spent with you.
- Be funny. Your poet has just spent the last five years working on a collection of poems about out-of-whack weather systems and the evils of Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs and whatever is in hot dogs. For God's sake, make them laugh."
—Elizabeth Bachinsky, author of The Hottest Summer in Recorded History
Photo credit Elizabeth Bachinsky: David Zilber
Photo credit Katherine Bitney: Janine Tschunky
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