Fear of Poetry

EyeYou hear the word poetry and your eyes grow blank or dart from left to right looking for a way out. Flashbacks of teachers, criticism, rules… so many rules. You back away saying, “No I can’t write poetry and I have no desire to read it, thank you, but no.”

I don’t know where or how poetry became such a convoluted thing. Where meanings had to be placed, how it had to be dissected, and it became so scary you refused to look at it let alone write it. Unless you had a deep passion and love for poetry you ran in the other direction. So I did a little digging.

First I asked my partner Christie who has been known to say that she doesn’t think she can write poetry but I have seen her words on the page:

You hear the word poetry and your first thought is of love poetry or you think you have to stop and break into a soliloquies. Or you think you are to take a moment and put words to it that no one ever uses. One may think their vocabulary is not expanded enough to allow them even the possibility of writing poetry.  I think someone is going to break it down and tell me it means something that it doesn’t mean. It’s my poetry, my words, I know what it means. And then I become apprehensive about writing poetry at all.


Some would say that a fear of poetry is silly but fears are not logical no matter what the fear is or where it came from. On About.com I discovered there is actually a name for it for those that have a severe fear of poetry, Metrophobia. Here is a short quote from About.com.

Metrophobia, or the fear of poetry, is surprisingly common. Many people first develop this phobia in school, when overzealous teachers encourage them to rank poems according to artificial scales, break them down and search for esoteric meanings. Others simply feel that poetry is somehow “beyond” them, belonging only to the realm of the pretentious and highly educated. read more…

I understand it. For a long time I avoided poetry myself as well as writing in general. But the more I pushed myself to do what I love, what I have a passion for, I had to explore it.

It puzzles me when I see an obviously talented person who writes beautiful lyrics and engaging blog posts say they can’t write poetry. For instance my friend Tui Snider (@MentalMosaic) at Tui Snider’s Unexpected Texas, Travel, Photos, and Reviews that is part of the Story Dam team. I thought for sure the first time I mentioned joining me in one of the poetry challenges that she would jump on it. Not at all. She has avoided it at every turn and even though she can write lyrics she balks at writing poetry. I asked her to free write her thoughts and feelings about poetry and this is what she wrote.

    Calling something a poem scares me. I worry that it will be sophomoric and cliche and clunky and just awful… and that all these faults will be obvious to everyone except me!
    Calling something a poem makes me feel like those fictitious head-bangers, Wayne and Garth (Dana Carvey and Mike Myers), in those SNL skits where they’d bow down to Aerosmith going, “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”
    I’m not sure why (and I’d really like to figure it out) but calling something a poem feels pretentious, and I never want to be that way.
    I have read many a poem that made me cringe and I would hate to do that to someone else. I feel like a “real” poet will come across my poem and sneer at my well-intentioned feelings laid bare and vulnerable before them.
    I write poems from time to time, but I rarely show them to anyone.
    On the other hand, I feel completely comfortable with and entitled to write lyrics.
    Isn’t that odd?


That is pretty intense and you can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t such a teacher in her past that was mentioned above in the quote from About.com. Or maybe she saw someone that was ridiculed for what they wrote.

As you can see a fear of poetry can be quite debilitating and could possibly keep a person from fulfilling their destiny. At minimum it can prevent them from being able to enjoy poetry; rhythmic and melodic words that are meant to invoke feelings in the reader.

What’s a person to do if they have such fears? I didn’t find a lot of credible sources discussing treatment for Metrophobia but the article on About.com brings up the movie, Dead Poets Society and this particular scene:

According to HuffPost there is hope. For the first time the popularity of poetry in the U.S. is finally on an upswing which I am hoping that means that those that have had fear around poetry are healing.

Maybe, just maybe all those that are afraid of poetry need is gentle encouragement from those of us that know the exhilaration and wonder from writing poetry. If we allow them to explore their words on the page without the fear of being criticized, they will one day be unafraid.

Do you have a fear of poetry? What do you think of the fear of poetry or also known as Metrophobia?

Want to try your hand at poetry, join us for OctPoWriMo.


CreateSpace Cover for KdpPurchase Wild Woman Waking Now on Amazon in Paperback and EBook.

“Sometimes poets write what we wish we could say, and they tell us what we need to know. The poems in Wild Woman Waking lead us to a place where we can proudly refuse to be “bent and broken”; instead, they document a journey to self-acceptance, peace, and understanding – where in a community of women, we celebrate and dance as Mud Women. We become women of spirit and keepers of our own keys.” ~Beth Camp



PageLines- picture20193.jpgMorgan Dragonwillow: Writing rebel, poet, foodie, urban gardener (zone 7b), using a pen and shovel to create a better world. She is team leader at @StoryDam, creatrix of #OctPoWriMo, She lives in Marietta, Ga. with her loving and patient partner, their dog that thinks she’s a princess, and the cat that reminds her that she isn’t.
Find her on Google+



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

19 thoughts on “Fear of Poetry

  1. Now that you mention it, Morgan, there *was* an English teacher who would rip my poems apart in front of the class. I had very little self-confidence back then and I blush really easily, so this was just awful.

    She didn’t like it when I described something as being, “thin as a whisper.” She also really, really did not like it when I used the phrase, “as cynical as city snow.” I remember those two phrases because I really tried to stand up for them.

    If she didn’t like them that was one thing, but she kept saying they were “wrong” and I disagreed!

    Ha – I had forgotten about all that until you brought up teachers in your post!

    • Oh I love both of those lines! I am so sorry she humiliated you and tore apart your poetry and tried to make you feel wrong. I can see why you would have blocked that out and forgotten it. I am glad that you had a break through regarding remembering where your fear came from though; that is the next step in working toward being able to write and share your poetry. I am very excited for you Tui!

  2. Great post! I write poetry in free verse, but I do remember being scared from poetry (but not enough to stop) because of all those kinds of formats.

    • I am glad you didn’t let it stop you from writing poetry. If you ever want to check out different forms, I love shadowpoetry.com they have a wonderful section with all different types of poetry forms and even invented forms. I like exploring the different ways I can lay my words onto the page. It is great fun!

    • I can certainly be bored by poetry and there is a lot of poetry out there that I just don’t like, but that is very different than being afraid of poetry. I didn’t realize how many people actually had a fear of poetry, both writing it and reading it. I certainly didn’t know that there was a name for it, Metrophobia. Writing this post was very enlightening for me. Hope you find some poetry you like to read. I just read Phantasmagoria by Lewis Carroll the other night and found it fascinating! It is about a ghost that comes to fill a vacancy (because it seems every older house should have a phantom, ghost, or other such thing). ;P

  3. Morgan, that is amazing. Metrophobia, the Dead Poets excerpt, your excerpts from the fearful – everything. A very cogent post. I write poetry, though I am painfully slow about it. Ironically, I often fear that the fact that I like to write form poetry – sonnets, pantoums, terzanelles – makes my work too artificial for current taste. Though such forms are great containers for deep emotion, it takes me awhile to decide that I want to share such poems with others. Because in some sense I fear that the criticism is valid – that they ARE artificial, and possibly pretentious. God forbid I be THAT. 😉

    • Thank you Troy, it means a lot that after reading this you are revising that statement. I hope you check us out at OctPoWriMo and decide to join us for the rest of October and if not, join us next year! Peace to you.

Leave a Comment

Get every new post delivered to your inbox

Join other followers

Powered By WPFruits.com