Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Negative Post A bout Negativity

I am getting really tired of negativity in our country. It pervades our lives. Politicians use it  to scare us about everything the "Other Party" does. Advertisers use it constantly. If we aren't completely "regular," we should take probiotics or certain yogurts with special bacteria. If we have any of a number of problems, there's a pill to cure it. 

Unfortunately, it seems to me, negativity has become part of our national trait. Friends who write articles report constant nasty comments directed at the work and at them personally by people who obviously have not read what they have written. 

I find it on Facebook constantly. No matter what I post, there seems to be a faction dedicated to tearing it down. If I put up photos of new garden ornaments, there's a negative comment. If I put up a photo of a painting I'm working on, there's a comment about how I should be doing something I'm more proficient at. I have handled these comments even though they're really beginning to rankle me.

Because month is National Poetry Month, I'm posting a poem every day to celebrate it. I've used poems from Old Dead White Guys like Longfellow, Whitman, and Blake. What do I get?  Negative comments. Poems by Twentieth Century poets: Negative comments. Poems by my friends: Negative comments. It just gets tired, and it's obviously mean spirited.

I am tired of people trashing the poems - poems they obviously don't understand and haven't read thoroughly - and then using the "Well, I'm just plain folk" line to think they can get by with it. Frankly, that's just horseshit.

I am far more tired of people trashing the poets. They can write their way out of a paper bag, and we know this because they are published and read and loved and they speak to people. Recently, I put up Stevie Smith's iconic poem "Not Waving But Drowning." Her message isn't new, but certainly the way she says it is. Henry David Thoreau said it differently when he wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." 

Smith's take was:

Not Waving but Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,   
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought   
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,   
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always   
(Still the dead one lay moaning)   
I was much too far out all my life   
And not waving but drowning.

I personally love this poem. I have felt like  the "dead man" at different times in my life. Sometimes things were out of hand in my life and people thought I was "waving, not drowning." 

Stevie Smith died of a brain tumor in 1971. One of the comments about her poem was to the effect that she should have drowned herself instead of writing the poem. The person who wrote this no doubt thought s/he was being witty and cosmopolitan. I found it disgusting, but mostly mean spirited. Criticize the poem - or other posts - if you must, but do so thoughtfully. That means no suggestions of suicide, giving up writing or other creative endeavors, or things of that ilk.  And if you don't like poetry - or feel threatened by it because you don't understand it - then don't read it.

I know, and have often said, that being offended is not terminal. But there's a limit, and I've reached it. I am done with people who think they're clever or witty, but are just mean.  Mean doesn't hack it. So quit.