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David McGimpsey: 10 myths about poets

April is National Poetry Month, so we pulled in Canada's most irreverent poet for a few tongue-in-cheek home truths. (By the way, he could use a hug.)

Hot damn, it's National Poetry Month. And while so many of us will be busy at our annual National Poetry Month Taco Parties (or "PoMo Taco Jams" as the kids call 'em), some people are wary of poets. This is understandable. Poets, despite their reputation for using phrases like "circular heart," for sullenness and for not understanding the subtlety of the phrase "I promise to pay you back," are not bad people at all. Fear not, celebrants: here are a few pointers which I think should clarify the most common misconceptions about poets.   

1. Not all poets are introverted. They aren’t always thinking away at some clever line they can’t actually speak of.  Poets are just alone because of their poor life choices. So, when you see a poet, don't think of some wild bard whose pent-up verbal hurricanes may suddenly destroy your world, think more of a sad kid holding the scrap of a recently punctured balloon.  

2. Not all poets are poor. They just dress that way because their craft has a complex relationship with irony.  

3. Poets are not just trying to use words to get into somebody’s pants.  They are trying to get into your mind, to create a beautiful illusion. An illusion that eventually creates co-dependence and a willingness to buy them lots and lots of wine. This not so bad because if you are a person who ends up being being seduced by a poet, you will definitely need the wine too.

4. Poets are not the kind of people who correct your grammar at parties. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Cool people don’t invite poets to parties, so why even worry?  If you did, however, unknowingly invite a poet to your party, they still won’t correct your grammar. They will definitely ask if they can change the music to Wolf Parade and they may mumble a line of their own verse if you say no, but they won’t correct your grammar.  

5. Not all poets are humourless. I remember when I was a young poet and I had the honour of meeting a group of older poets I admired and, I admit, I was pretty earnest then, so I just asked them all if they thought my manuscript, “The Windchill of Goole,” was publishable and, wow, they just laughed and laughed until their faces were red!  

6. Not all poets are piteously self-involved. Still, to be safe, I would advise one to set a standard of not permitting poets to read their work to you at any place but a poetry reading where they serve liquor. If you don’t set boundaries, some poet will eventually be asking you to turn the TV down because they want you to listen to “a new poem about my stepfather” and they will be doing this when the Super Bowl is on.

7. Not every poet is an impractical romantic. When confronted by an official of state, like a customs agent, about what their profession is, very few poets will say “I am a poet!”  Poets are usually very intelligent like that.

8. Not all poets hate Gwyneth Paltrow. I say this because I love Gwyneth Paltrow.

9. Not every poet is a dedicated obscurantist who won’t just say what they mean. Poets are just gifted at the art of euphemism—of being able to call two readings in two coffee houses a “book tour,” of being able to declare a reluctance to wake up before noon a “vocation,” of being able to conjure up an adept comparison of the moon to “a pie plate of wonder.”

10. Poets are very attractive. This is just true. No misconception there. It is, in fact, the preternatural attractiveness of poets that allows them to thrive, despite society’s doubts, and to go on and continue drinking some weird homemade broth out of a thermos and to continue using the word "akimbo" any damn chance they get. 

So go hug a poet!  It maybe an awkward hug, but you'll get over it and someone will likely write a poem about you!

David McGimpsey lives in Montreal and teaches creative writing and literature at Concordia University. His latest book is Li'l Bastard, listed as one of the National Post and Quill & Quire's Best Poetry Books of 2011. His previous book of poetry, Sitcom, was a finalist for both the A.M. Klein Prize and the ReLit Award. David is also the author of the award-winning study Imagining Baseball: America's Pastime and Popular Culture. McGimpsey writes a regular humour column for Montreal's Matrix Magazine and the 'Sandwich of the Month' column as a contributing editor for enRoute

Photo credit: Charles Earl 


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