the last and otherwise unreleased installment of my column, which ran on the outline.
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Lunar Observer #21: Poetry

by Jacob Khepler

Did you know that April was Poetry Month? I missed it. It's May now but we can still read poetry, that's not against the law (yet). I mean it's not Earth Day anymore yet here I am, on Earth (mostly).

Looking back, I guess I did read more poetry than usual last month. This past Lent I gave up looking at my phone in the bathroom, and poetry was the replacement read. It worked out great! With some notable exceptions, most poems tend to take less than one bathroom duration to read. Plus they require a bit of quiet introspection, combined with a bit of vulnerability, and that combo is a bathroom's stock and trade. The result for me was pretty perfect: whereas looking at the phone promises but does not deliver on a greater connection with humanity, and in fact makes me more anxious, reading a little poem gives me a +2 feeling of calm, while truly strengthening my feelings of connection (and yet promising nothing). So if still waters run deep, and you want stiller waters, maybe try deepening the reservoir? This isn't logically pure --the aphorism doesn't preclude deep fast waters-- but it seems like a good starting point. DO: put some books of poetry in your bathroom. DON'T: download a poetry app. ALSO: "I gotta read a poem" is a pretty good euphemism for what's probably the English language's most-euphemised act.


If you don't know where to start with poetry, I recommend going to the used bookstore and browsing around. Start with literally any name you might recognize, or whatever's cheap. Get a couple books that are fairly dissimilar, that way if one is a dud it's not a big deal. Just stack three or four on top of the toilet tank, and rotate them at your whim's discretion.

I would recommend against reading any expository text- just get right in there. As a general practice, skipping the intro gives you the feeling of immediately accomplishing something- sometimes this warps you ahead a good 10 or 20 pages into the book! As it pertains to poetry, it can give you a bit of wiggle room: if you don't immediately understand some aspect of a poem, you have a good reason for it-- you didn't read the intro yet. You can fail to understand something but not feel stupid about it. Or more to the point, you can try to figure out what it means to you, freed from the influence of the myth of the expert (or author). You can always read the intro later, when you're good and ready.

In a similar way it may be helpful to not go in order but to skip around the book, opening it at random each time. It's by far the more casual approach, and if you find yourself rereading the same poem now and again, so be it- it's truly not a problem to read the same poem on the toilet more than once in a lifetime. And much to the bathroom reader's advantage, poems have a tendency to mean different things on different days.

I'm not going to use this space to recommend any one book of poetry over any other book, because I don't think that's helpful at this point, but I would recommend against epic poetry for your bathroom reading, only because the poems are book-length and your butt will fall asleep, and when you go to stand up, you might fall. It's a safety issue.

Again, it isn't poetry month anymore. No foundation, organization, or brand will reblog any content you tag with "#poetry". No one really cares if you read poetry, but I find the experience pleasant and worthwhile, and you may as well.