There was recently a piece by a lawyer/poet critiquing a younger, more celebritified (we made up that word) poet that caused a bit of an uproar for multiple reasons.
Here’s the thing: Just because a poem doesn’t speak to you or your ‘idea’ of what a poem is doesn’t mean that it’s not a poem or that the person who wrote it isn’t a poet.
One man writing about one woman doesn’t get to decide that woman is or isn’t an artist or a poet no matter how adamantly he digs in his heels. One liberal doesn’t get to decide that about a conservative or vice versa. We shouldn’t think we have the power to label or un-label another person.
Being a critic doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole.
It isn’t just people on the internet though.
We were walking our puppy, Pogie, and our older dog, Sparty, this weekend, and a woman Carrie often tries to avoid stopped to talk.
The woman said that we needed to take our chunky, arthritic Sparty on more walks so he could lose some weight. She has no idea how many walks Sparty goes on. Disclosure: It’s more than it seems.
Next, she looked at our newly painted blue stairs and said, “Oh, that white splotch is still there. That’s been there forever.”
Then she gave our chubby dog a dog treat. A couple actually. Yes, the same woman who told us we needed to walk him more to lose weight.
Here’s another thing: Being observant doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole either. People don’t need to be celebrities for other people to want to take them down, to criticize, to refuse to say one positive thing.
In this world? It’s so easy to criticize each other, to snark, to deride.
But just because something is easy doesn’t mean that it’s right.
You know what’s hard? It’s finding bits of good in people that have given up on themselves and finding good in people who others have given up on, too. Yeah, it’s so much harder than just criticizing, but you don’t evolve if you don’t do the hard stuff.
And evolving? That’s sexy.
We all think we’re good people. I’m sure that woman walking her dog does. I bet that angry poetry critic and political pundit does.
But here’s the question for all of us: When was the last time we helped someone who was having a hard time?
Here’s another question: When was the last time you ignored someone when they were doing poorly?
Did you criticize their dog, how often they walk them. Did you say, “The blue of your front steps is nice?” Or did you just say, “Oh, that white splotch is still there?” Did you write an essay about how a young Black woman in her early twenties was not a ‘poet,’ and how her poetry, her voice, had no merit?
Authentic leadership and character requires lifting as we climb, not stomping on people below us so hard that they are dragging themselves through the dirty ground or yanking people above us off the ladder so forcibly that they break bones and spirit in their fall.
Nurturing other people’s talents even when it’s hard to see those talents? It’s a skill. It’s leadership. It’s what being a good person is about.
Lifting as you climb is more than a slogan; it’s a way of life. And it’s a good one.
Topple as you ignore? Stomp as you criticize? Doesn’t really work quite so well.
We are all human. We are all flawed, but we are all capable of so much more. Let’s help each other achieve those great things, the great selves we’re capable of.
LINKS WE MENTION
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License.
Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.
We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.
Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!