Published 12 January 2010 · Main Posts How poetry ruined my life, episode 4 Tara Mokhtari A question for the poets: What do you do when you’re at a party, and some unimaginative guest asks you what you “do”, and you have that moment where the following thoughts collide in a mangle of mild discomfort in your mind: 1. Do I bypass the details of how I have a menial day-job to support the poetry? 2. He’s going to think I’m a wanker if I say I’m a poet. 3. But I am a fucking poet, I even got published in Overland once! 4. I studied writing and everything, does that justify me or make it sadder that I’m still fixated on it even though Penguin still don’t want my verse novel manuscript? 5. I mean, I did the Diploma at RMIT/I did the Bachelors at RMIT/I did the Masters at RMIT/I did a fucking Ph.D at RMIT and I teach the subject now, that’s got to count for something… 6. Look at this dork, he’s probably got a Ph.D in Quantum Physics, I can see it now, the beer coming out his nose when he snorts and says “you can do Ph.Ds in creative writing these days? Really?” 7. I’d have loved to do a Ph.D on Quantum Physics. If only I could remember how long-division works. No, seriously. 8. Maybe he’s one of the polite ones who will smile and nod and say “I never liked poetry much, to be honest”, 9. and if that happens, note to self: Resist urge to tell him he just hasn’t read the right poetry yet. You know he stopped at Shakespeare sonnets in high-school which brought down his University entrance score to 98.9, and his left eye still gets that nervous pulsating twitch when he thinks about it 15 years on. He’s probably not willing to believe you when you tell him there are as many poets and poetic styles and genres as there are musicians and musical genres – and EVERYBODY has at least one kind of music they love. It’s just that poetry isn’t passive, you can’t really read it while you cook your nightly pasta sauce. I mean you do, but he’s probably particular about not getting tomato on his books, even the ones he hates. More likely he’d be worried about burning his dinner. His reaction would be “Well I’ll read a poem when you do a quadratic equation”, which wouldn’t be so bad except you really don’t remember how to do long-division. 10. So change the subject if he gives you the smile’n’nod. 11. Better yet, lie. Say you’re in marketing. You market… something… something people actually need and love. Toilet paper, asprin, organic chickens, breath mints, gym memberships… 12. Don’t be stupid, excuse yourself. Go stand in the line for the loo. Nobody will ask you personal questions there. Anybody? Got a few newies at: http://taramokhtari.wordpress.com Tara Mokhtari Tara Mokhtari is a Persian-Australian poet and screenwriter based in New York. She is the author of The Bloomsbury Introduction to Creative Writing and Anxiety Soup. More by Tara Mokhtari › Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 8 September 202312 September 2023 · Main Posts Announcing the 2023 Judith Wright Poetry Prize ($9000) Editorial Team Established in 2007 and supported by the Malcolm Robertson Foundation, the Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets seeks poetry by writers who have published no more than one collection of poems under their own name (that is writers who’ve had zero collections published, or one solo collection published). It remains one of the richest prizes for emerging poets, and is open to poets anywhere in the world. In 2023, the major prize is $6000, with a second prize of $2000 and a third prize of $1000. All three winners will be published in Overland. First published in Overland Issue 228 8 September 202315 September 2023 · Main Posts Announcing the 2023 Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize ($6500) Editorial Team Supported by the Malcolm Robertson Foundation, and named after the late Neilma Gantner, this prize seeks excellent short fiction of up to 3000 words themed around the notion of ‘travel’; imaginative, creative and literary interpretations are strongly encouraged. This competition is open to all writers, nationally and internationally, at any stage of their writing career.