Goodreads choice winners for poetry are … bad

Hi! Welcome back to another booktube
video. Today I’m going to talk about recent Goodreads Choice Award winners
for poetry. So I tried to read the last five years of winners but the 2015
winner, The Dogs I Have Kissed by Trista Mateer was not in my library consortium.
None of the libraries near me owned it and quite frankly if the other four I
read or any indication, I don’t want to buy any of the Goodreads Choice Award
winners for poetry, probably. But I’ll get into that. I did however read four of the
recent winners. The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace, that was
2018. The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur, 2017. The Princess Saves Herself in This One, 2016 also by Amanda Lovelace, and Lullabies by Lang Leav, 2014. Now, I
made this video for a very specific purpose its partly in response to a very
small section of a video by paperback dreams, my favorite booktuber, about
reading all of the 2018 Choice Award Winners. And so doing that she read The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One, and she talked about how she didn’t really like
it. I agree with everything she said. She said that the content, in terms of like
the messages, were good but the style didn’t really do anything for her. And she made
a lot of little caveats or disclaimers saying basically, like, well poetry is not
really my thing and modern poetry is not really my thing so maybe this just isn’t
for me. And she was really nice about it. Which is fair. If I were to review a
genre that I don’t really read, I tend to not be too critical because hey what do
I know. But as someone who does read a lot of poetry I would say, first of all,
it saddens me to think of anybody reading any of these books and thinking
that this is modern poetry, this is the poetry that’s happening right now.
That it’s the only kind of poetry that’s happening right now. Because this is not
even to the majority of the poetry that’s being published right now. It
is the most popular and most commercially successful. It’s what you’ll
find in Barnes & Noble. It’s what a family member who doesn’t know you very
well might buy you for Christmas. It’s not modern poetry. And so I just wanted
to talk about these books and why they’re not good. So I want to start by
reading from The Princess Saves Herself In This One. This is an Amanda Lovelace
book and there’s a poem in here that really stuck out to me. Again, talking
about the definition of poetry and I’ll just read it. There’s a poem page 163. “One.
fill-in-the-blank. poetry is- blank – anything you want it
to be.” This is her sort of formula, her forma, the title, I guess you would
call it a title, is at the end. which is something that Rupi Kaur also does. I
don’t know who did it first. I don’t know whose idea this is. It’s just a thing that is
happening right now. So yeah. That’s a sentiment that I can feel in all of
these books- that poetry is just whatever you want it to be. And that is something
that bothers me and has bothered me for a long time. I feel like a definition of
poetry need not be poetic. Definitions are utilitarian. Definitions are useful.
They are meant to help people understand what a word means and how it’s used. And to
me poetry has a pretty specific definition. I would define it as a work
of art in language, either written or spoken, that conveys a feeling or an idea
through poetic techniques, in other words alliteration, assonance, consonance,
similes, metaphors, form, rhythm, rhyme, meter, etc. That is my definition of
poetry and I think it’s a good one. And these people are not writing that. It’s
just- they just aren’t. This is just not poetry and I know maybe that sounds
extremely elitist or unfair but I think that most… I would say most readers and
writers of poetry would probably agree. So let me also start by saying that,
okay, so obviously this book has been talked about a lot. Rupi Kaur has been
talked about a lot. One of my first introductions to this book was a
co-worker of mine saying that someone bought this for her for a gift and she
doesn’t like poetry but she liked this. And my first thought was, well yeah,
because it’s not poetry. I can see someone who doesn’t like poetry liking
this. You know. Writing a sentence of prose where you occasionally hit enter
is not poetry. That’s just a sentence. okay let’s get into it. I’m sorry this is
not very- five whole minutes of sort of disclaimer and explanation. I can
actually talk about these books now. I have notes, okay?
This is not just me out here complaining. I really put some time into this. this took a
long time. So the first book I read for this was the most recent
winner, The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace. Of these three poets:
Amanda Lovelace, Rupi Kaur, and Lang Leav. It dlisliked Amanda Lovelace the
most. Again, my personal definition of poetry is just different than hers. I
think poetry needs to utilize a fair amount of poetic devices. As far as I can
tell Lovelace pretty much only uses alliteration. She uses some imagery but
the imagery is pretty much always just fire. Fire, matches, match boys, match
sticks. Fire. It gets pretty repetitive. She uses a lot of hyphenated phrases like
that wouldn’t normally be hyphenated like you take two words you stick em
together and you put hyphen in between them. She does a lot of like this kind of
thing…you know spaces between words. I don’t really understand what this is
supposed to do for the way that you read it. It kind of emphasizes the word I
guess but it is grossly overused first of all and I just don’t understand what
it’s supposed to do. The line breaks where you know if you don’t read poetry, or you don’t know, you know it’s exactly what it sounds like,
you write a line then you hit Enter or (make a) space with your hand and that’s
the line break. The line breaks in this collection and most of these collections
feel, with the exception of Lang Leav. feel completely random. Completely random.
I can’t see any reason and what that does really is as you read these poems
they feel like sentences, just prose sentences, but they’re harder to read
because there are these random breaks that have no purpose and no point and
they just kind of slow you down and I don’t understand why, why especially
Amanda Lovelace who really heavily relies on line breaks and doing funky
things with spaces, and without space nothing about this is poetic. I don’t
understand why she doesn’t just write prose poetry. But the thing is if she
wrote prose poetry every poem would be like two lines long. Maybe a little
longer than that. They would be super short. They would be too short. I think
that’s the only reason why she uses line breaks like this. Okay. Trying to be coherent here, okay. I got
like halfway through this book and I started feeling like, wow, these feel like
tweets. They feel precisely like something I would read on Twitter and
content-wise I agree with a lot of the stuff
she’s saying. These are pretty much all very like feminist collections of poetry with positive things to say about body image and just feminist stuff. She tries to be
intersectional. I don’t actually think she succeeds in that but that’s kind of
another story for another day. But in any case content-wise like it’s okay, you
know, I don’t disagree with anything she’s saying. I just don’t think it
needed to be a book. Because it feels like Twitter. So and then I get to this
poem, page 99, which I will read for you. Here we go, first actual reading of one
of the poems. “Quote, I don’t wear makeup for others the same way I don’t decorate
my house for others. This is my home and everything I do is for me,” and again, what I would call the title at the botton, “- tweet from September 28 2016.” tTis is a
tweet. She published a tweet in her book. of poetry. Which , if what you had
written was a poem, if you tweeted was a poem and you wanted to put it in your book
that’s fine. That didn’t feel like a poem to me it felt like a tweet. Okay. All
right. Here we go. Another thing. By the time I got to the
end of this book, and this is one of two Amanda Lovelace books that I had to read
for this video, I had a theory. I thought to myself, with no…I knew nothing about
this person or these books other than the fact that they were Goodreads Choice
Award winners and that paperbackdreams read one of them. I didn’t know anything
about this before I got into it. I read this book and I thought, there is no way
that this person was not originally self-published. That is just a thing that
you can tell from reading this. Take that for what it is, you know, you can decide
that that’s elitist of me and unfair but you read this and you know, if you know
anything about poetry, you write poetry, if you submit to publishers especially,
you know that this did not get published by any publisher, small press, or contest. You know that from reading it. Now, I did a little research. That was just a theory.
I looked into it and this one came first, ,and I believe this was self-published
and then this… once you have some success in self-publishing you can
publish through a publisher. But still, even the second collection which supposedly I
would think went through some editors or something, you could totally 100 percent tell that this is a self-published poet. So take that for whatever you want. You can tell me that I’m elitist. But I can tell that this did not pass
the muster through any kind of like workshop. Because it wouldn’t. It would
not. Okay page 49. I need to talk about this poem as well. “And she begins to
wonder if kisses have calories and how long they would take to burn -the hollow
girl two.” What?! Okay if you want to talk about eating disorders, by all means
let’s talk about it. That’s an important topic. I don’t think anybody with an eating disorder genuinely thinks to themself,
I wonder if kisses have kisses have calories? Kisses *burn* calories and honestly I think anyone
with an eating disorder knows that I just- what? It just doesn’t make any sense. How does this? Okay. I’m sorry I’m not doing a very good job being coherent.
That’s insane. I cannot believe that that got published. Okay this is the last full
poem we’re going to talk about. Page 27. “Women are considered to be possessions
before we are ever considered to be human beings and if our doors and our
windows are ever smashed in by wicked men, then we are deemed worthless, foreclosed, never sold. So we move out of our neighborhoods and we make sister homes
of each other. We lock those doors and eat those keys.” First of all- she uses the
word sister and sisterhood, she talks about sisterhood a lot. I feel like…Is this the
90s? no. What are you doing? I don’t…sisterhood is a kind of
problematic notion especially for white women. But that’s not what I was
primarily going to I talk about. So, in a good poem in my experience, good poems are
both beautiful and logical and the more you read them the more they make sense
and the more you can see that every single word was chosen carefully and
every line break has purpose and it all just fits together like a puzzle and
it’s beautiful and it makes sense. The more you read these poems the more you
realize that they do not make sense. Okay. “Women are considered to be possessions
before ever considered human beings.” Sure. “and if our doors and our windows,” okay
now women are houses, okay, “are ever smashed in by wicked men,” men are
breaking the houses, “then we are deemed worthless, foreclosed.” So you’re upset
that you don’t get sold? You’re complaining that you’re a possession and
then you’re complaining that you don’t get sold. “So we move out of our
neighborhoods.” I thought you were a house, now you’re a person? “and we make sister
homes of each other,” Now you’re a house inside a house inside a house? What is and
happening? “and we lock those doors and eat those keys.” Oh my god. locks and keys I just. That is such a cliche. That is such a cliche.
Anyway. So it doesn’t actually make any sense, is another thing. Oh boy here we go. Do I seem ridiculous? Do I seem mean? It doesn’t matter these people are doing
fine. That’s the thing I can sit here and criticize them. They’re all making money
so I don’t have a problem with telling you that they’re bad. Because they are. So
okay let’s talk about positives. I’m never gonna review any book without
saying anything good about it. Content-wise what she is trying to say,
sometimes I think she fails at saying it, but she was clearly trying to say
feminist empowering things, again she makes attempts at intersectionality but
I don’t really think they work, but she is trying to be an intersectional,
empowering, inclusive feminist, that’s cool I like that. The Sun and Her Flowers, have you ever heard of it? I bet you have. yeah okay again this is the one that
somebody said I don’t really like poetry but I like this sure I like poetry so I
don’t like this much like the witch doesn’t burn we’ve got metaphor this
metaphorical descriptions of women as houses bodies as houses smashed windows
we’re locking doors we’re swallowing keys what okay other cliches in this she
said you know phrases belly of the beast packed like sardines you know poetry
supposed to use not supposed to can use little similes and metaphors comparisons
packed like sardines is a is a cliche so I don’t really know why you’re using it
in your poachy poachy allows you to be very unique and
downright weird and original and I think it’s especially important in poetry to
do something different and say something that in a way that it hadn’t been said
before because almost all of these collections are about the same stuff
okay they’re about falling in love and falling out of love and a lot of them
have these very feminist concerns so you’re not saying anything that anybody
else that no one else is saying you have to say it in an interesting way I am
just baffled by the number of downright known cliches in this book I was about
eight years old when my first teacher taught me to not write cliches Thank You
mrs. Longo I don’t understand so that was just
really baffling okay Ruby core is more what I would call like like greeting
card poetry here’s a poem page 89 like the rainbow after the rain joy will
reveal itself after sorrow oh and we have a drawing okay this is a lovely
greeting card this is lovely nice greeting card this is a nice little
consolation this is a nice why am I forgetting the word condolence
card or something this is a greeting card okay that’s fine right greeting
cards you can make money doing that oh we actually don’t have that much to say
about this one even though it’s like the big one I think in my experience you
know front facing and every bar the novel in the country I don’t understand
um I will once again say some positive things about this book we’ve got nice
little drawings some of these would make a really nice like tattoo or something
they’re cute alright once again would make a nice
like greeting card that’s nice I like that I like that drawing papers okay I
just wanna show you some more drawings I like the drawings they’re cute nice
all those little vegetables in a pattern nice drawings um now we need to talk
about plagiarism did you know what this video would also
be about plagiarism if you know anything about this book if you don’t know
anything about this poet you know that she is entangled in a scandal of
plagiarism so we need to talk about that so I have read every article I could
find on the accusations of plagiarism against rupee core they’re not very good
articles it’s very like gossipy in the poetry world haven’t found anything
super substantive but I’m still going to talk about it one of the issues is that
a specific poet knew Urawa he’d accused Ruby core of well I’ll just
what this poet said because that will be better and more accurate so he’d wrote
publicly the following loves it is with a truly heavy heart I feel it is now
time that I must come on public record with a statement regarding the author
rupee core and the growing unrest in our community regarding issues of plagiarism
paraphrasing and hyper similarity in December 2014 I did professionally and
privately address this author via email concerning issues of extreme hyper
similarity regarding my work I addressed this among other concerns with the
author in the hopes that upon awareness on their part efforts be made to cease
and desist in this correspondence I expressed my upset my growing discomfort
my disappointment and disbelief that as I had extended it and it sick and
professional acquaintanceship to them a welcoming a general trust artist artist
woman of color writer to fellow woman of color writer that that trust felt it had
been violated and that boundaries were being crossed it was also very hurtful
and confusing because this author has expressed on social media and in
professional interviews that I am one of their main woman of color writing
inspirations and I truly thought that they valued and respected my work myself
and the work I do and I feel that I have an utterly blind sided okay I do think
is unacceptable for someone to send you a message like that and to not respond
but what I think is actually more compelling and impressive is this
breakdown of similarity to not only this one this contemporary poet but other
poets other contemporary poets and very very famous classic boats as well um and
so I’m gonna link to this Goodreads review because I think this Goodreads
review from just a reader was actually more compelling and well researched and
interesting than any of the articles that are read so good job that person
and that person said the following I’m not gonna read their entire Goodreads
review Abell read some of it she said I don’t know where to begin listen as a
Blount Brown of course I gave Ruby a try that’s what we Brown girls do we hold
each other up and support each other like crazy because who else will
I was want to point out yeah I’m not trying to tear down like a woman of
color poet but she is bad and she plagiarized so I’m not going to not talk
about it um especially in this roundup where I’m not just talking about her you
know it’s a wider issue um anyway she goes on and then she says I just can’t
ignore the more popular pieces she has claimed as her own when any avid reader
can tell you they’re not um I don’t think any avid reader can tell this I
think this person is being modest because I mean I I don’t know maybe I’m
not well-read enough but I would not have been able to remember these
specific verses and I’m really impressed by this person so let’s just get into
some of the examples that she cites example one this is a quote from Ruby
core you must see no worth in yourself if you find me worth less after you’ve
touched me as if your hands on my body magnify you and reduced me to nothing
sounds awfully familiar to this quote from kaya Sabah if you consider a woman
less pure after you’ve touched her maybe you should take a look at your hands
example two she was music but he had his ears cut off repiy core she was like a
piano in a country where everyone has had their hands cut off Angela Carter
he’s another example your voice does to me what autumn does to trees you called
me you called to say hello and my clothes fall naturally ruby core I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees Pablo Neruda like are you
kidding me okay now we can argue forever about whether this is intentional
whether this is known whether you know maybe before reads a lot of poetry and
can’t remember where her ideas come from that happens it happens to all of us I
can understand that I think that the number of similarities with the number
of poets is entirely suspicious however what I think is more important than any
of that is that in every single case the original is better there’s not a single
example of Rubik or stealing it and make better so my question is just why would
you read this when you could go read Pablo Neruda or one of those other
people go read Angela Carter go read somebody
this is just not this is the watered-down version of poetry and I
don’t oh okay that’s two of the four books that I intended to talk about this
videos getting a lot longer and meaner than I meant it to be i mmm I thought
this would be fun and light-hearted but I guess I actually feel very strongly
about this and this is making me kind of Angry um but we’ll keep going I’m really
worried I’m being too mean oh okay that’s okay once again all these people
have more money than I do so I don’t really care
um I’ve made more money off of their writing let’s be specific okay again I
had to read another Amanda Lovelace oh my god once again she uses the phrase
key to my heart I just don’t understand how fully grown adult writers are using
known cliches this is since this was the second Amanda Lovelace book that I read
I didn’t take nearly as many notes I just wanted to get through it um you
know I had taken extensive notes on the first one um once again the content is
fine the form is boring it reminds me of like bathroom stall inspiration if you
go into like a lot of women’s bathrooms there will be those of you who maybe
have not been in women’s bathroom um often the graffiti is very inspirational
and it says things like you’re beautiful you’re worth it you’re wonderful and I’m
like you don’t know me I could be a serial killer I don’t understand this
I’m just trying to pee that’s what it feels like to read this kind of stuff um
I appreciate wanting to uplift people it just doesn’t do anything for me um yeah
the only good thing about it is it’s short okay finally this one lesser-known
I feel lot is talked about Lane leav also
you must be popular if she won a Goodreads Choice Award but you know
certainly not making headlines for a plagiarism like so many people in this
video um once again like all four of these books I feel like I’m reading a
diary I’m reading somebody’s diary this book is entirely about falling in love
and falling out of love that is the whole thing now unlike especially on
like Lovelace and mostly unlike core Langly have uses at least some variation
of style some of these are prose poems cool she’s not entirely relying on
completely random line breaks for it to be poetry um some of them rhyme and have
some meter okay cool we’re doing some poetry stuff that’s nice um so yeah
unlike the others there especially in like Lovelace there’s some variation in
style there’s however no variation and content
like I said half the books about falling in love half the books about fall I have
left oh my god I got so far it’s you have to
make me care much like in fiction I have to care about the characters I have to
care about we were saying in poetry you can do that through language through
doing something interesting with language this I don’t care about your
diary about your breakup I just don’t there’s no you have to make me care um this one didn’t make me like actively
angry I was just bored it’s not that bad it’s not it’s fine it’s fine
um you know it didn’t make me angry this one does because hey catches copy people
without giving them credit oh I also forgot to mention you’ll notice that no
one is complaining about her drawings even though in many occasions she is
drawing on specific inspiration and she will say you know this is inspired by
this famous painting or a photograph or whatever yeah if you give credit no one
will get mad it’s that simple okay cite your sources um so yeah oh
that’s all for them my goodness I’m starting to feel like
maybe I shouldn’t put this on the Internet is it to mean tell me if I’m
being too mean tell me okay that’s the end talking about bad poet
now you could ask yourself just spent like 20 minutes ranting about what’s bad
and what I don’t like so what do I like do I like anything do I like things yes
I like poetry lot um here’s my bookshelf I’m gonna do a bookshelf tour soon but
this is all this is all poetry it’s not extensive I have more than this I read a
lot of poetry and I’m just going to I will link my my own personal Goodreads
account so you can go and you can look at it if you care but I’m just going to
list my top favorite poets in no particular order so you know that I
don’t just hate everybody um these are all contemporary poets I
believe everybody on this list as far as I know it’s still alive um yeah and
they’re writing right now so this is these are modern poets okay so once
again these guys are not the be-all and end-all and all there is to modern
poetry so here’s some good modern poets okay Eve Ewing Rachel Zucker cava Akbar
Terrence Hayes on emotion of office Heather crystal Tracy K Smith Louise
look Jennifer Joshua Espinosa our SLS teacher may our two Collins chenchen you
can go check any of them out they’re all wonderful and great
and you know what I would bet money but they don’t like these books either so
I’m not just being salty okay anyway that is all for now please let me know
how you felt about this because I’m not sure how I feel about it tell me if I’m
being too mean tell me if you’d like me to be mean some more in the future okay
all right fine

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