Book reviews, musings and waffle from a British lit addict

My ‘Genre Nemesis’: Poetry

I have been meaning to post about ‘Dracula’ for the past few days but haven’t because I can’t work out how to sum up the book that is the great-great-great grandfather of the whole vampire extravaganza – I loved it (in spite of myself) so am choosing my words carefully.  Clearly, that is taking a while! 
So instead of that, I will “treat” you to some musings on a genre that I have neglected for years:
POETRY 
You may well now want to pull me apart for describing a whole swathe of literary works as a single genre OR I’m actually right without knowing it.  Either way, the fact remains that I never read poetry.  A fact that I was discussing this very week with a colleague.  He’s a big poetry fan so his first question was, “But why?”
Perhaps because my last memory of poetry is the final exam in my English Literature A-Level (sorry, I have no clue what the US equivalent is…).  A three hour paper in which to write two essays: one about Shakespeare’s Sonnets; one about The White Devil by John Webster.  These were to include a fair amount of quotations so that we could back up whatever nonsense we chose to spout with ‘proof’.  We were not, however, allowed to actually take in copies of either.  And so my most recent poetry experience was learning sonnets off by heart with the sole intention of regurgitating them in a semblance of order and highlighted by some random relevant facts about Shakespeare and/or Webster, as the question dictated.  Fun?  No.  Unsurprisingly, fun it was not…
And just like that, poetry became all about technical terms and linguistics.  I dimly remember my first look through Shakespeare’s sonnets and enjoying them but, regrettably, that memory is now blurred into 90 minutes’ worth of writing faster than my brain could think.
As so many people do when you tell them you don’t like something they love, my colleague decided that he would fix this apparent deficiency of mine by lending me a book cheerily entitled Staying Alive:  Real Poems for Unreal Times edited by Neil Astley.  According to Watersones, it is an “international anthology of 500 life-affirming poems fired by belief in the human and the spiritual at a time when much in the world feels unreal, inhuman and hollow”.

I know that I should (a mere 7/8 years after that last fateful experience) try poetry again.  It is silly that I profess to love literature and all things lovely and written but with no small amount of ignorance dismiss a huge volume of work.  So, although this would perhaps be better served as some kind of New Year’s Resolution, I plan on taking a couple of months to browse through this anthology and see where it takes me!

Do any of you have genre nemeses?  Do you ever feel the need just to see whether that genre is still quite as hideous as you remember?