Can Poetry Romanticize Toxic Relationships?
While there’s a huge range of love poems, many glamorize unhealthy relationships.
I read a lot of poetry. If you also read a lot of poetry, this might be a question that’s struck you too.
I was recently listening to a poetry craft talk from the poet Brenda Shaughnessy where she discussed phenomenology in poetry and intergenerational trauma. It was an incredible talk that got me thinking, especially when the Q&A after her talk turned toward how difficult it can be to write about childhood experiences.
Poetry is obsessed with the deeper tie of pain and love. Yet as much as this is relatable for so many of us, is this really a necessary component of love? As writers, should we be celebrating these ridiculously relatable notions without noting that this is a mark of trauma and abuse on so many of us?
There’s a great deal of dialogue now on how “suddenly everyone has trauma.”
People will say this great callousness as if people becoming more aware of mental health is somehow a bad thing. This is anecdotal, but this is something I’ve unfortunately heard a lot and quite a few of my aging Millienal friends also encounter this dialogue with older family members and work colleagues.
In terms of poetry, there are a lot of messages out there that reinforce the idea that love always has to be painful. When these flippant messages start to stack up, it becomes concerning — poetry, unfortunately, has the power to normalize unhealthy relationship dynamics and coping mechanisms. This is a problem that might be more common among people consuming poetry on social media — it’s niche. But there are a lot of us in this realm, which makes it worth talking about.