Last month, Rebecca Makkai wrote a gut-busting post over on the Ploughshares blog, entitled 14 Ways to Tick Off a Writer. (Go read that post right now because it is hilarious.) It got a lot of us over at PRISM laughing. And thinking. It seemed like we all could relate to one or more of the 14 points.
Over the next few e-phemera posts, I am going to share some of the stories and thoughts inspired by Rebecca’s words: “Writers are fun and easy to annoy. Minimum effort, maximum rage.”
Our first piece is from PRISM Contest Reader Ruth Daniell, who has devised her own list of annoyances. Enjoy.
10 Ways to Annoy a Poet
(and other writers of “less marketable” literature)
by Ruth Daniell
Have you ever done any of these annoying things to the poets in your life? Don’t worry. Most poets are big softies. They probably still love you.
1.) Ask the poet if all her poems/stories are based on real events and people.
2.) If the poet says her poems/stories are (sometimes) based on real events and people, insinuate that relying on real events/people is less original or creative than coming up with completely “new” events and people. Imply that she’s lazy.
3.) a.) If the poet says her poems/stories are (sometimes) not based on real events and people, imply that you know she’s lying. She couldn’t possibly be writing anything but cloaked autobiography. b.) If you ever actually read any of the poet’s work, always assume that the speaker in every poem is the same voice as the poet. And at the next opportunity, ask her a personal question about something you “know” happened to her because you read it in a poem she wrote.
4.) Ask if the poet has ever written about you. Ask her why not. Ask her if she will.
5.) Ask the poet to “sum up what’s happening in the literary scene today.”
6.) Ask the poet to write a poem for you for a birthday/Christmas/etc. present, especially if the present is for someone who the poet doesn’t know very well. Ask the poet to write a poem for your mother-in-law or grandmother. Ask the poet to write something for someone you know does not or cannot read or who would not enjoy her “untraditional unrhyming” poetry. In fact, ask her to make sure the poem rhymes because that kind of poetry is better and easier to understand. Do not mention payment.
7.) If the poet says that she mainly writes poetry/literary fiction, ask why she doesn’t write something more marketable. Ask her about money.
8.) Keep suggesting fantasy genre novels to her. Tell her, “You will like this one because it has a strong heroine.” Look knowingly at her so that she understands your plan to rescue her from “contemporary poetry” and “literary fiction” and direct her towards more marketable writing by tempting her with some strong “feminism” stuff. You’ve heard she’s into feminism; if only she discovered some sword-wielding princesses* she wouldn’t think she had to stick to this boring literary stuff she only feels obligated to enjoy.
9.) Quote nineteenth-century poetry to her. If she can’t immediately identify the title and/or author, smile indulgently, serene in the knowledge that anyone can do her job.
10.) This is especially effective if you’re a non-writer friend or relative of the poet: when you introduce her to some of your friends, make sure she’s aware of your embarrassed need to apologize for the fact that she’s a poet. Verbally reassure the other people present that she also works as a (insert day job here).
*sword-wielding princesses are admittedly awesome.
Originally from Prince George, BC, Ruth Daniell is a poet, writer, performer, and Speech Arts and Drama teacher who currently lives in Vancouver with her husband, James. She holds a BA (Honours) from the University of Victoria, her ATCL from Trinity College London, and recently graduated with her MFA from the University of British Columbia. Her writing has been published in The Malahat Review and Walk Myself Home: An Anthology to End Violence Against Women, twice longlisted for the CBC Canada Writes Poetry Prize (2012, 2013), and is forthcoming in Contemporary Verse 2. Sometimes her poems rhyme. You can visit Ruth at ruthdaniell.ca.