Earlier this week the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of poets and poetry fans were buzzing all about Kristen Stewart. Yes, the Twilight Kristen Stewart. Like many other celebrities before her she dared to venture out of her world to stepped briefly into the poetry world. During an interview with the magazine Marie Claire she revealed that she wrote poems, and the magazine’s web site posted one online (read it here). It was even discussed this morning on BBC Radio.
Of course it was not a particularly good poem, but it wasn’t bad either. In fact there were a few really startlingly bright spots. It was the kind of poem a 20-something who probably hasn’t had a lot of (or any) formal instruction in poetry or probably even much exposure to poetry, would write. It’s surreal, a little trippy, murky and plain weird.
So after I and lots of other people who take poetry seriously mocked, sighed and wagged our virtual fingers at the gall of a movie celebrity venturing into our territory without years of practice, vetting and disappointment, I looked back at what I was writing at 23.
When I was her age I was an undergraduate English major. I was trying every way I knew how to immerse myself in poetry (reading constantly, attending poetry readings, drinking cheap wine with other student writers, showing up to class sometimes…), but I was also writing crappy poems. Sometimes they even got published in small journals that no longer exist. But they were still really crappy. They never attracted a micron of the attention that Stewart’s Marie Claire poem did in the first 10 minutes the post was live.
A friend I went to grad school with commented on the poem by saying that someone at Marie Claire opened a window for her and told her to jump, and she jumped. She didn’t show up to the interview to talk about poetry (I assume, unless this is the beginning of some James Francoesque campaign to rebrand herself). She even admitted to the magazine that it was “pretty embarrassing.”
Yes, that says it well. She jumped, fearlessly more or less (a celebrity probably has less to fear from something like this than other people).
Stewart has been living on movie sets since she was a little girl. She’s surrounded by people who tell her she’s a star. She has millions of fans who want to live her life. Is it any surprise that when she steps out of her safe zone that the result is a bit under-developed?
What prompted my initial reaction, and probably those of most of the other poets who read her piece, is a mix of jealously (her poem was read by millions) and a sense of being invaded—this is our room, why can’t those movie folks stay out! Poets have such a hard time getting attention for their work that when someone uses their celebrity status to jump to the head of the line it pissed them (us) off.
But that’s not really fair or what happened here. I’m sorry Kristen Stewart. You didn’t do anything to deserve the mocking. If admitting that you like poetry gets a few more young people to like poetry, that’s probably good thing for all of us.
However, I will still mock James Franco. I just can’t help myself—anyone involved in Spring Breakers deserves all the mocking that comes to them.
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You can find my newest book Necessary Myths here.