Respecting poetry as yourself

CN/ Kien Ha

By Erik Luna

People need to realize that the written word is something to be marveled at not something to be made a mockery of.

Students, usually immature teenagers, look down on those who choose to express themselves verbally and intellectually. Poetry and spoken word have risen to some popularity as of late, but there are always those wise-cracking, loose lipped and intellectually challenged people who look down on this art.

Here at East Los Angeles College, the English Department has been publishing the Milestone literary magazine for over six decades. Along with each publishing there have been countless poetry readings. I was fortunate enough to attend two readings in which Carol Lem, an English professor who died of cancer earlier this year, read some of her wonderful pieces.

Although, during one of those readings, I couldn’t help but over hear those annoying jokers having their say in between each piece.  Really? Is it really necessary to add those ignorant anecdotes?  Sadly, during one reading, the subject of my furious retort was a friend’s boyfriend. Fortunately, she had the nerve to break up with him.

In fact, seeing and hearing that reminded me of my time at Garfield High School, where certain clubs would have an open microphone day during lunch or sometime after school, but no one would want to speak out in fear of being socially outcast for some strange reason.

Anybody that puts their work and words out for the public are bound to get some criticism but, surely there must be better resort than just blurting out nonsense during a reader’s poem.  It’s ignorant, disrespectful and it can potentially hurt someone.

For example, there are countless poems I have read in the Milestone literary magazine that had to do with the untimely death of a friend, or a family member.  How would the poets feel about hearing those idiotic quips?

Clubs like the National Alliance of Mental Illness have supported this form of art and have used it to their advantage. NAMI just recently held a poetry reading to help raise awareness for medical illnesses.

How could anyone possibly poke fun at that?  What is it about some people that makes them think they can do these sorts of things?  Is it movies or television shows making poets seem weak?

Not to further advance a burned out cliché, but most of the time it seems these people are athletes, that seemed to wander in from the outside world, into a reading.  Yet, that could only be from my past experiences.  In fact, I’ve known plenty of athletes that have written fascinating pieces of poetry. It’s those other guys that are the problem.

I say this as a writer, as a poet, but more importantly as a human being.  If anybody has anything to say, why not say it in a more respectful manner?  Anything is better than obnoxiously blurting out idiotic phrases.

It all comes down to respect and to treating others as they would want to be treated.

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  1. “I write to know I’m not alone.” ~Carol Lem

    Milestone is a literary journal which has published short stories/poetry/essays/artwork by ELAC students for over 60 years. Lose yourself in some of ELAC’s finest literary works.

    ~Milestone: 2011 now available for sale at the ELAC bookstore for just $5!
    Featuring pieces from talented ELAC writers such as Trudi Hayashida, Luis Madrigal, Stevie Johnson, and more!
    Featuring artwork by gifted ELAC artists such as Tracy Liu, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Lidia Garcia, and more!

    ~Join us on Thursday, Nov. 29th from 12:15p.m.-1:30p.m. in the Art Lecture Hall (S1-112) for a reading and party to celebrate the release of Milestone: 2012.

    ~Want to have your work published in Milestone: 2013? Visit the English Department for information on upcoming submission calls.

    ~Follow Milestone online at or for the latest updates or to read up on past editions.

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