From the Archives
(April 2005) A pal told me she used my term “bad poetry hand” in conversation the other day. I’ll explain the term but, first, background: A nearby university hosts a literary festival every year and I was invited to participate in a poetry panel and workshop a few years back, I had a hard time deciding whether or not to accept, however, because a poet whose work I do not respect was also on the panel.
I had an almost visceral reaction to this poet when I heard him being interviewed on NPR and wound up yelling at the radio because of his pompousness and blatant unrecognized privilege and frankly, his plain bad writing pissed me off.
This poet is the son of a mill owner, which places him among the southern social elite. He slummed at his daddy’s mill one summer though when he was a teenager and was somehow left with the impression that this enabled him to speak for those dull, dumb millworkers, all of whom are just so happy working at Daddy’s mill.
He wrote an entire collection in the voices of those um simpletons and doesn’t appear to even understand how revealing his writing is.
My writing friends listened to me fret as I tried to decide whether or not to be on this panel with him, and they heard me say more than once that I just couldn’t shake this guy's bad poetry hand. So I fretted. What if I got into a situation in which I had to shake his hand? I absolutely could not touch touch it or even hold polite conversation with him because I know I would end up snarling. And what if he stuck out his bad poetry hand and introduced himself? What was I supposed to do then? Huh?
In the end, I actually did manage to avoid shaking his bad poetry hand, despite being in his general vicinity all afternoon, but it took some wrangling to pull off.