Harry Potter and the Imagined Limitations of Poetry

by krstaten

I don’t think I’m alone in sometimes feeling trapped by the perceptions of what poetry is or isn’t, can or can’t be, should or shouldn’t be. Objectively I’m sure we all realize that poetry can truly be anything, and the diversity that exists in poetry is proof of that. Still, it’s hard to escape the mindset that not all subjects can be made poetic. For example, you probably wouldn’t write poetry–serious, meaningful poetry–about losing at Scrabble, dirty socks, or, say, erotic Harry Potter fan fiction.

Oh wait.

Sometimes, just as we’re sinking into the lowest points of lecturing ourselves over what we can and can’t write, someone like Brenna Twohy comes along with a poem like “Fantastic Breasts and Where to Find Them” and shatters the limitations we have so painstakingly created for ourselves and each other.

“The first time a man I loved held me by the wrists and called me a whore, I did not think ‘Run.’ I thought, “This is just like the movies.”

I could go on and on about the power of this poem, the brilliance of it, and the eloquence of it. I could say a lot about the truth of it, the sadness of it, and the subversiveness of it. I could, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

What I can talk about though, a thing that amazes me as much as all of those other qualities do, is that it takes a subject which on its surface seems silly and inane and creates stunning and observant art from it. (Not that erotic Harry Potter fan fiction can’t be in and of itself stunning and observant art, if you find the right writers.) Twohy starts with Harry Potter porn and ends with a bold push-back against societal perception and objectification of female sexuality. She starts with the URL for Potterotica and ends with a refusal to be part of this persistent marketing and packaging of sex.

This poem is such an inspiration for me, as much because of how it’s written as because of what it says. It’s a powerful reminder that literally anything I find inspiring can, in fact, be made into art. Anything.

I’m gonna go try to write a poem about losing at Scrabble now.