Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

I’m an English Major, and I Hate Poetry

Give me a Shakespearian play and I’ll memorize it. Give me a 1400-page novel and I’ll read it in two days. Give me prose and I’ll analyze it. But give me poetry, and I’ll roll my eyes so far back I can see my brain.

When I tell people I’m an English major, they usually assume I’m one of those nerdy girls who wears all black and spends all of her time in coffee shops reading poetry (they’re only wrong about the poetry part, though). I’m here to break that stereotype.

Don’t get me wrong — there’s some poetry I absolutely love. John Donne, Maya Angelou, E.E. Cummings and T.S. Eliot all make my heart soar and make me reevaluate my stance on poetry. But then I’m assigned a poem to analyze in class, one with stilted verb tense and page-long stanzas, and I remember exactly why I hate poetry. It just doesn’t make any sense to me — why wouldn’t you just write it normally? Why do you have to make everything so flowery and confusing? Why can’t you just be straightforward?

It probably sounds funny and a little hypocritical that an English major is telling someone else to be straightforward and get to the freaking point. However, that’s honestly how you know it’s real. I can easily write a five-page essay using primarily adjectives and can take my sweet time proving a thesis to get to a certain page length. But there’s just something about poetry that drives me up a wall. It could be that I just don’t understand it, it could be that I associate poetry with extremely dumb projects in high school or that I’m scarred by my second-grade teacher telling me I couldn’t go to recess until I wrote an ABAB rhyme scheme poem. Whatever the reason, it has truly made being an English major just a little harder.

I can only imagine how privileged and whiny this sounds. Wow, at your affluent university, the only thing you can find to complain about is how much you hate poetry? Your life must be soooo hard. Honestly, I know how I sound. I’m aware that if the only thing I can find to complain about is hating poetry, my life must not be that hard. Here’s the thing: I want to like poetry. I want to carry around a marked-up copy of Whitman or Thoreau and be transported to a new place by their words. But every time that I try to analyze poetry, I cannot get the imagery or the meaning behind any of it. Don’t even get me started on when I try to write poetry; it comes out thick, clunky and awkward. I cannot for the life of me get the soaring, sweeping beautiful words of the other poets I study to work with my pen.

I think that is what causes my complete and total aversion to all things poetry; I’m jealous. I wish that I could capture feels and descriptions with the ease and beauty that others do. When my classmates analyze poems and find hidden meanings, little Easter eggs to analyze and discuss, I’m truly envious. I want that hidden ability and the power to be able to dissect two or three words to find paragraphs of hidden meaning.

I really do hope that I figure out how to like poetry before the end of my collegiate career. Not only would it make English classes easier, I think it would make me a more well-rounded student and person. I want to enjoy all forms and types of poetry, not just select authors I have learned to love. Here’s to hoping that this English major reforms her ways and learns how to love poems—I certainly am.

Sources: cover photo 

Image 1, 2, 3

Emily is a part-time coffee addict and a full-time English and Public Relations student at Virginia Commonwealth University. She enjoys all things punny, intersectional feminism, Chrissy Teigen's tweets and considers herself a bagel & schmear connoisseur. You can probably find her either listening to the Hamilton soundtrack or binge watching The Office for the thousandth time
Similar Reads👯‍♀️