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Man up with manvotional bro-etry

By Harriet Staff

The Art of Manliness has a message for men who think they’re too tough to squeeze in a chapbook between learning to “shave like your grandpa” and “9 ways to start a fire without matches.” Real men read poetry. Author Ty Karnitz chalks up contemporary man’s insecurity around stanzas to being taught from a young age to resist encounters with anything emotional, even though some the manliest men to ever wield a straight razor were poetry lovers—and even poets—themselves. Maybe even grandpa.

The word spawns images of dark coffee houses, bongos, berets, women with black hair and clothes, and feelings best kept private. The word has a stigma on it these days. Poetry is for angst filled teens and Hallmark cards. Today, poetry seems to be the antithesis of manly.

But it wasn’t always so. Poetry has been written and read by men for generations, reaching back thousands of years to the ancient Greeks, Sumerians, and even to the ancient oral traditions. Poetry used to be read and recited around a fireplace or in a cafe as a form of entertainment. And Theodore Roosevelt, an epitome of manliness, loved poetry, and as president gave government jobs to poets on the condition they do nothing but write new poems.

The author is clearly a fan of epics, pointing his readers in the direction of The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Illiad, The Aenied, or Paradise Lost to supplement their intake of Gladiator, Transformers, and “epic fail” skateboard videos on YouTube– pursuits that have largely displaced poetry because, as Karnitz kindly puts it, they’re “forms of entertainment that are more accessible.”

Somewhere in the past century, our society has changed. Television, it seems, has taken poetry’s place. We as a society no longer need a bard to recite lyrics to us to keep us entertained. We have television and movies, and when we want to read there are always novels and short stories, or magazines or newspapers. So poetry has lost its place in the world and because of that, we’ve forgotten about it. But maybe the gentlemen of the past knew something we don’t. Maybe they read poetry not only because they didn’t have television but also because it did something for them, because poetry isn’t only about flowers and rainbows. Poetry is about war, friendship, nature, spirituality, and everything a boy needs to know about being a well-rounded man.

So if you’re planning to venture to the library with your bros for some quality self-improvement time with The Odyssey, just do us less manly folks a favor and try not to set it on fire.

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, January 20th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.