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Bro-etry: What Happens When A Bro Writes Poetry

Posted: 07/15/11 09:42 AM ET

Why are so many guys afraid of poetry? Is it because they don't think they'll get it? Is it too mushy and emotional and girly for their manliness to handle? Screw that.

In her introduction as Guest Editor of "Best American Poetry 2010," Amy Gerstler noted that saying you don't like poetry is like saying you don't like food. In other words, a beet is just a beet; if you're not into beets, you can eat spinach. Don't like vegetables? Have pizza. The point is, if you think you don't like poetry, you just haven't found a poem that's right for you.
Personally, I love poetry. I've been reading it and writing it my whole life. But as a 25-year-old American male who also likes sports and sex and beer and video games, sometimes it's hard to find poetry that feels like it's speaking directly to me. I get it; you shouldn't need a PhD in Comparative Literature to understand and enjoy poetry. That's not how it works in literary fiction, or journalism or comic books. "Ulysses" is a fantastic book, and is deep and difficult; "To Kill a Mockingbird" is also a fantastic book, but it can be enjoyed by any 9th grader failing English class. Where's the equivalent spectrum in poetry? Why should we just accept the fact that most guys don't read poetry and ignore a major portion of our culture and population? Why should guys get left behind?

That's why the world needs "Broetry."

"Broetry" is my baby. It was born during my first year of grad school at USC, grew up while I was writing my thesis in 2009, and reached full maturity--or immaturity, depending on which page you turn to--with the help of my editor Jason Rekulak and everyone else at Quirk Books. "Broetry" is not a hoax. It is not a gag. It is not a book that I'm hoping people mainly purchase as a one-note joke to make their coffee table look witty. "Broetry" is meant to be fun, and it is certainly meant to be funny, but it is also meant to be poetry.

Now don't get the wrong idea; I'm not trying to climb up on a soapbox and tell you how wonderful "Broetry" is or that you should never read any other book but mine ever again. It's not some magical wonder-book. It doesn't cure syphilis or regrow mullets or create snow bunnies.

See, what I think is more important than the physical text of my "Broetry" is the idea that there is no reason why broetry in general cannot and should not exist. "Broetry" isn't just one book written by one person; it's poetry that's smart, accessible, and relevant, and it can be written by anyone. Some people might roll their eyes or say that "Broetry" is just a cheap frat boy marketing ploy, but I don't see it that way. I see it as a way for guys to start realizing that there's nothing inherently wrong with poetry; they just haven't found poetry that's right for them.

"Broetry" challenges American males who don't like poetry to create an alternative. Is there some law that says we aren't allowed to read and write poems about video games or sci-fi movies? Rap is poetry; in fact, most song lyrics would be considered poetry. Shakespeare was a poet; "Romeo & Juliet" was written in iambic pentameter. Poetry is not the problem. The problem is the way we've begun to perceive poetry. We think of it as some lofty art form more at home in a kind of mental museum.

I call shenanigans. It's time for guys to start reading again, and more specifically reading poetry. It's time for us to come out of the shadows and proudly admit in verse how much we love football. We don't need to be afraid anymore that the big, bad poetry monster is going to see our feelings. Broetry lets us decide what we want to read, write, and relate to. "Broetry" is poetry for dudes and chances are that it might just be the poetry that's right for you.

Here is one of my favorite examples of my "Broetry":

O Captain! My Captain America!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The Allied boys have reached Berlin, we've beaten back the Huns;
Now Hitler's out, that Sour Kraut, he shot himself or something,
And pretty soon we'll drop the bomb, those Japs could use a thumping:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O my friend, how can it be?
So near the end my Captain's died,
Fallen in the sea.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and shake it off;
Rise up--and thaw your costume some--you've been gone long enough;
They found you in a block of ice--some poor old frozen stranger;
But now they'll have you lead their club, they'll call you an Avenger;
Here Captain! dear partner!
Oh wait, shit, never mind;
There's been some kind of Civil War,
You're dead again I find.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
They shot him on the courthouse steps, he has no pulse nor will;
At least this is a nobler death than drowning all alone;
The grave can wait, he'll lie in state, surrounded by his own;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
My Captain's heaven-sent,
He shall finally find his--fuck!
I think he's back again . . .