Later pages in the image search for “useless” yield the following: a poster with Chinese characters in bold black ink and their (supposed) translation: “YOU ARE USELESS”; a poster with the headline USELESS that reads: “You aren’t needed in society. You won’t even help someone in pain. How cruel is that! My suggestion is you should care more for others and stop being self-centered. Maybe then at your funeral, someone might have something nice to say about you.”
And yet, I continue to do this thing. Out of habit? Well, partly, sure – I’ve been writing poetry since I could write. Out of selfishness? Yes, possibly – it could be argued that writing poetry, creating a useless artifact, is a selfish act. But there’s something more I gain from it: I feel productive when I write a poem, I feel like I have produced something in those moments. And the word “produce” implies usefulness, which seems ironic, since I’ve just established poetry’s uselessness. How does one “produce” a “useless” thing?
In an online list of “productive things to do,” of the 100 things listed, not one is “write poetry.” The list includes: empty the dishwasher, walk the dog, get the mail, work on your novel, break in a new pair of shoes, write letters, write a list of gift ideas for family and friends, find a new way to wear your hair, write a letter to a politician, and even, go to the dump, but not “write poetry.” So writing is featured, but not writing poetry – poetry is not productive. Letters, novels, lists, and blog entries are, but poetry (by virtue of its absence) is apparently not. Those other types of writing still actively communicate, but poetry does not; that’s the distinction.