The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

QOTD – Non-Poet-Poets

It seems what often scares people away from Poetry is the presumed pretentiousness of the genre, its fans, and, most of all, the authors.

Before the Hipsters co-opted most of these things, thick framed glasses were poetry glasses, wearing a beret and writing in a cafe was a poet thing, and simply enlarging or or half-rolling your eyes (with a nasal inhale, of course) was a poetic response to someone not understanding your metaphor or meaning.

These are the wanna-be poets.  These are people who want to be Poets, but not write poetry.

Then there are the literati, the poet poets, those who you read because you must (whether an edict on high from some form of instructor or an innate compulsion of self, you must).  These poets, the poets, get a lot of attention because they are brilliant and, as such, are often deemed confusing.  As such, they create a have and have-not, or get-it and get-it-not, caste system of readers (or non-readers as the case may be).

There are also the poets-who-don’t-know-it, the young poets, the street poets, the visual poets, and the non-poet poets.

I am reminded of the scene in Dangerous Minds when Michelle Pfeiffer asks the friend who so kindly helped her get that teaching job who his favorite poet is and he tells her Dylan– of course, referencing Bob Dylan, not Dylan Thomas.

It is not a far leap to call a songwriter, especially one as gifted as Bobby, a poet- but it is a great example of stepping of the beaten path of poetry to find some of our best poets.

My dad loves to tell a story of when my sister was three years old and he was carrying her on his shoulder when she said, “Look, Daddy, the trees are running,” gesturing to the trees swaying on a windy day.  Beautiful.  Perfect.  Simple.  But most people are afraid to anoint a three year old a poet.

Let’s drop the fear and look at those around us, those in the world, who truly use their words poetically – with beauty, with meaning, with purpose, and with power.

During a class day lecture for the senior class at Harvard in 1975, Muhammad Ali was asked by a member of the crowd for a poem.  The crowd grew silent and The Champ paused.  His poem came shortly…


George Plimpton happened to be in the audience that day and wrote to Bartlett’s suggesting that The Champ’s new poem should replace On The Antiquity of Microbes (Adam/Had ‘Em) as the world’s shortest poem.

Ali is a poet.  The way he spoke, the way he moved, the way he fought, and the way he has lived his life.  Ali is a poet whose final stanza is reminding the fleeting nature of beauty and of life.

Most people are familiar with his total eclipse of the Sonny and claims to handcuff lightning and throw thunder in jail, but did you ever read or hear his poem on the Attica Prison Riot?

At The Poetry Question we are all about finding poetry and finding poets, so my question to you is who is your favorite non-Poet poet? This is not a day to talk about Eliot and Keats and Yates and Brooks, or Browning or Frost or Thomas or anyone you had to read in your high school text book.  Let’s dig.  Let’s explore.

QOTD – Who is your favorite non-Poet poet?


*Some may dispute my spelling of Ali’s poem, claiming he said “Me/Wheeee” – which may be true.  However, I have seen footage of him reciting where his hand gestures clearly imply a “me/we” relationship.

>Here is footage of Ali reciting his Attica Prison Riot poem on Irish TV (if you are unfamiliar with the context, I would suggest a 10-15 minute Google Quest on the subject<


About Jamaal

Lover of words, liver of life, director of theatre, keeper of keys and grounds at Hogwarts. Twitter: @JamaalAllan

5 comments on “QOTD – Non-Poet-Poets

    August 5, 2013

    Amen. I totally agree with you. In fact, I have my own poetry blog and on my about page, this is what is written: “My goal as a poet is to convince the masses that poetry is cool. It’s not all metaphors about streams and sunshine and flowers and seasons. Poetry is gritty, real, emotional, and sexy. Thanks for visiting She’s in Prison!”

  2. Katherine Shirley
    August 5, 2013

    I had never heard that clip before. He has a fantastic delivery. I hung on every word and every pause. No wonder he was seen as such a powerful spokesperson for racial equality at the time.

    • J. Gabriel Allan
      August 6, 2013

      I wonder what it would have been like to be listening to him at the time rather than with the lens of history

  3. Pingback: Iraqi poet Salah al-Hamdani | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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This entry was posted on August 5, 2013 by in Question of the Day and tagged , , , .

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