I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across writers who say, “I stopped writing poetry because I wasn’t good enough.” Why is this annoying? Well, not only is it unnecessarily self-deprecating but because it suggests that poetry is a form of writing elevated above all others, and that fiction, essays, scripts, or whatever, are somehow easier to write than poetry—a ridiculous notion, at best. You could say that perhaps what these writers mean when they say this is not that poetry is inherently more difficult to write than fiction, but that it was simply more difficult for them to master than fiction, or whatever, was, that they are not elevating one form over another. This might, in some cases, be true. Nevertheless, these asides often read or feel to me like some kind of surrender to a romantic definition of a poet, that is, that a poet is some kind of fiery pyre of passion, and not just a slob like the rest us slogging our way with words, hacking away at hackneyed phrases, whittling away the waste, worrying over every word. I can’t even look at the mainstream magazine Poets and Writers and not laugh at how the title distinguishes poets from writers.
John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.