I was thinking the other day that the people who really like poetry, I mean, they read it, they value it, they buy books of it just to own them, and not to be seen walking around carrying books of poetry, have got to be a very small percentage of the people out there. I mean, everyone’s gonna SAY they like poetry, but almost no one really does. To be clear here, I don’t mean song lyrics, or plays written in iambic pentameter, or dirty limericks. I mean regular old poetry. The thing is, few people want to mock poetry because it’s commonly perceived to be a good thing to appreciate, spiritually enriching, etc. There’s probably several things like this, in the highbrow vein. Opera, or experimental jazz, for example, where few people like the subject, but it’s widely praised.
The dark mirror of the niche poetry audience has to be people who are sexually turned on by clowns. I mean, if you round to the nearest percentage point, statistically probably the same percentage of Americans genuinely love poetry as get aroused by clowns, but the social acceptance is the exact opposite. Little was made of Clinton giving Lewinsky a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, but if he had slipped her a dossier full of clownfucking erotica, you can bet we’d STILL be hearing about it today. As someone who likes neither clownsex nor poetry, particularly (I mean, there’s some okay poems, I guess, and I suppose I could rank some clowns ahead of others, if I HAD to have sex with a clown), I wonder who sets the social agenda here. Why, arbitrarily is the one tiny group lauded for doing a thing nobody likes and the other tiny group excoriated for it?