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Poetry without punch

If you’ve spent enough time on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram chances are you’ve read the work of r.m. drake, a writer who only ever uses lower case for extra literary cred. The guy’s a flippin’ superstar; even the Kardashians can’t get enough of his pithy musings on life. With over a million Instagram followers and another 17,000 or so on Twitter, r.m. drake is the internet’s poet du jour.
Nanjing Night Net

Poetry in motion: Former world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali is said to have created the shortest poem ever written.

Not surprisingly, I think he’s a massive wanker. Yeah, yeah, “Takes one to know one!” I hear you say (correctly), and perhaps there’s a touch of sour grapes over his seemingly effortless conquering of the globe. But the main thing I have against r.m. drake is his utterly egregious poetry.

His work always appears on handmade grey paper in smudgy, ye olde typewriter font – a classic example of style over substance, just like his allergy to capital letters (which is simply poor grammar in my book). Well the smoke and mirrors aren’t fooling me; you can’t polish a turd even with the funkiest handmade paper.

The first time I read an r.m. drake poem was when a friend of mine installed one as the photo on her Facebook page. It went: “she slept with wolves without fear for the wolves knew a lion was among them.”

Eh? I understood it was an attempt to celebrate female empowerment but did r.m. drake mean to write “a lioness” was among the wolves? And lions conjure images of Africa, right? Well there aren’t any wolves in sub-Saharan Africa. And why would a lioness sleep with wolves, even if they were magically in Africa together? I’d have thought a lioness would sleep with other lions in a pride, all snuggled in with cute, fluffy little lion cubs.

Yes, you could call it petty nit-picking and say I missed the point but these are the sorts of things I expect hugely successful writers to consider before they blurt them out. (Like I said, I am as much of a wanker as r.m. drake. Just a different kind.)

That initial wolves/lion poem piqued a strange interest in me. I needed to know who was responsible. I looked r.m. drake up and it turns out he is one Robert Macias. A Florida lad, he was working as an art director for a Miami TV station when he started posting his tiny poems online.

They were perfectly succinct for the internet era and the likes of the Kardashians who are apparently flat out reading a full paragraph. Next thing, boom! He went viral and a book deal ultimately followed. Good luck to him (can you hear the scrape of gritted teeth?).

The thing is I’ve read at least 100 of his poems and have yet to find anything that makes much sense. And while cogency need not be at the heart of poetry, r.m. drake’s offerings are usually smug edicts that are meant to inform our outlook and behaviour – so they ought to make bloody sense! Here is a random selection of his published works:

“death is the easy part, the hard part is living and knowing you could be so much more than you’re willing to be.”

Doesn’t sound like r.m. has watched anyone die of cancer lately, or spent time in a nursing home or palliative care ward.

“the best kind of humans are the ones who stay.”

This is entirely daft. How does that mantra apply if you’re raping and pillaging with ISIS? On a sinking ship with your children perhaps? Or ransacking homes in the grip of an $800-a-day heroin habit?

“we swallowed the chaos because we knew we didn’t want to be ordinary.”

Woop-Woop-Woop-Woop. Irony alert! Irony alert! That is a particularly ordinary poem.

“somewhere along the way we all go a bit mad. so burn, let go and dive into the horror, because maybe it’s the chaos which helps us find where we belong.”

Or maybe the horror is depression, post traumatic stress disorder or schizophrenia and maybe we’d be better off seeking professional help. Or we could read another helpful r.m. drake poem on mental illness:

“madness and chaos are self-destructing but over thinking is the suicide.”

Over-thinking is the suicide? By that rationale Albert Einstein should have necked himself at age 12.

But wait, r.m. has advice on who to hang out with, too:

“there are people who have been ignored and kicked around a few times, the ones the crowd will tell you to stay away from. Seek those people out, and find them; they are the ones who will change the world.”

I guess that depends on your definition of changing the world. Every single person I’ve ever been warned to stay away from has either ended up in jail or dead. Now that’sa change.

Not to worry, here’s a pointer on having non-human friends:

“the fear of loving a dog is knowing one day they’ll be gone and you could never find eyes that express all that you feel.”

Wrong. For me the fear is having to scoop up its excrement every day for 14 years. Grrrrrrrr.

“it’s dark and I’m reading my scars because our moments remind me of where I should be.”

Turn on the light pal, grab a knife and I’ll tell you where you could make another scar. Honestly if I have to read one more r.m. drake poem in my Facebook feed, the offender is going to be unfriended.

I know this has been a nasty, bitter tirade and of course it’s easy for a lowly hack like me to sneer from the sidelines (super easy if you’re sneering at r.m. drake). I can’t ever claim to have penned a poem nor am I about to start; I reckon the bar is impossibly high given that Shakespeare, Keats, Poe, Bukowski, Plath, Whitman et al have already stomped like giants upon the literary landscape.

Yet ironically my favourite ever poem came not from one of these greats but a sportsman. Asked to deliver a poem during a lecture to 1200 mostly white graduates at Harvard University in 1975, the erudite African-American world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali replied:

Me? We.

Widely considered the shortest poem in history, it’s meaning is immense. And Kim Kardashian could get through it in a minute or two. Beat that r.m. drake.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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