Posted: 1 July 2011
A survey conducted by Mslexia magazine suggests that one in every nine educated women actively avoids poetry as a reading experience, one in eight feels ‘intimidated' by it and one in six is irritated because she finds it ‘deliberately obscure'.
Mslexia sent a questionnaire about attitudes to poetry to 14,832 women. Four per cent of the 3,635 women who responded admitted that they never read any poetry at all, and had absolutely no plans to do so.
‘It is likely that these women are suffering from a condition known as metrophobia,' says Dr D J Taylor, whose report on the subject appears in the July issue of the magazine. According to Taylor, the typical metrophobic experiences ‘mild to acute discomfort when confronted with poetic material'. Symptoms include sweating, breathlessness, nausea, dizziness - ‘the autonomic fight/flight response that accompanies all anxiety'.
Taylor goes on to describe five main defensive behaviours the typical poetry phobic engages in as a way of ‘fending off' the feared art form. These are avoidance, intellectualisation, aggression, disapproval - and ridicule, aka the ‘clog dancing' defence, where poetry is accorded the same dismissive reaction as the widely-ridiculed UK folk dance.
Taylor cites research showing that metrophobia is almost entirely absent in young children, but starts to take hold as schooling progresses ‘until alienation and even outright hostility is being expressed by a significant proportion of teenagers at GCSE level'. It would appear that recent changes in the English curriculum have exacerbated the condition.
Mslexia's survey suggests that metrophobia is endemic in the UK - and is by no means confined to the less educated. Those who responded to the questionnaire are mainly tertiary-educated, literary women, who are all (otherwise) extremely well-read.
To read the article in its entirety, click here.
Credit goes to Mslexia for this excellent piece.
Categories: Poetry News