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  • Writer's pictureNathan Brown

On Being Un-Misunderstood

As a poet, it took me years to understand that I was going to have to make a choice. A choice, understand, that I never had to make as a songwriter. And that choice had to do with whether or not, as a poet, I wanted my poems to be understood. As a songwriter, it was understood that your songs should be understood.

What I understand now, though, is that if my poems are understood, I will not be appreciated by other poets who prefer that their poems be misunderstood. And what I’m further beginning to understand, is that being understood reduces your chances for publications, awards, and prizes. The reason? The poets who do not like to be understood are the editors and judges.

Now, please understand that I’m not upset with the poets who are misunderstood. They have their place in art. Though I do not understand it. I’m simply told they do by those who seem to understand these things. But my misunderstanding has mainly to do with that fact that I don’t understand what I am supposed appreciate about art that gives me absolutely nothing to stand under. No joy. No love. And no hate, sadness, or even disgust, for that matter. Outside of my disgust for the feeling that a poem is deliberate in its desire to be un-understood.

And I understand that I’m now standing on the edges of being understood myself. So let me try to wind this down to a finish that might be understandable, at least by some.

Understand that I am okay with the misunderstood poets continuing to stand over the awards and prizes. They’ve earned the right to stand there. Though I don’t understand the how or the why. But I do understand, beyond a doubt, this one thing for sure: I long to be deft, innovative, and artistic in my efforts to be understood as a poet. And it is simply because we live in a time when people are dying for some understanding in a world that seems to be losing its collective mind. And helping out with this particular problem, historically, has been a part of the poet’s job description.

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