Poetry and Rain

by Paul Hostovsky

People who love poetry are like people who love the rain. We’re in the minority. Most people hate rain. They look out their rain-streaked windows and scowl as though faced with a long and difficult poem. They shrug beneath their umbrellas and blink as though under the penumbra of an inscrutable poem. And sometimes it isn’t raining exactly, but sort of misting, or sleeting, or spitting. It’s kind of like that with poetry. Not exactly, but sort of.

 But the earth needs poetry as much as it needs rain. Even people who hate poetry and rain will grudgingly, grumblingly, admit this meteorological fact. They would just prefer that the poetry and the rain occur someplace else, someplace where the people who love poetry and rain can dance around and exult in it and the rest of us can take it in in smaller doses, in bottles or, preferably, teaspoons.

 And then there is the smell of the rain, which is not unlike the smell of the poem. The smell of the rain before the rain is practically a poem itself. And the smell of the rain after the rain is reminiscent of poems about poems. There are poets who never write poems about poems and they would just as soon not have to read them. They are like the people who come in out of the rain and fold up their umbrellas and briskly wipe off their shoulders and arms and sit back down to the task at hand. But then there are poets who love poems about poems. They write them often and love to read them. They are like the people who come in out of the rain and their shoes are filled with the noise of it and they do a little dance and give a little shout before leaving their umbrellas open to dry on the floor like big, black, articulated flowers which the cat eyes from a distance and is soon emboldened to approach and sniff and sit beneath and contemplate and lick.

 Hell is having nothing to read but your own poems. Which is like having nothing to drink but your own bathwater. Or like carrying around your own urine sample for days or weeks at a time. Which is why we need each other’s poems. We really do. But the thing is, poets can be very tiresome people. We really can. As tiresome as rain. If not for the poetry, I don’t think I’d have anything to do with us. And as for the poems, well, I think I could do without ninety percent of them. If not for the ten percent that I love, I don’t think I’d have anything to do with poetry.

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