Coping With Metrophobia or the Fear of Poetry

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Metrophobia, or the fear of poetry, is surprisingly common. Many people first develop this phobia in school, when overzealous teachers encourage them to rank poems according to artificial scales, break them down, and search for esoteric meanings. Others simply feel that poetry is somehow “beyond” them, belonging only to the realm of the pretentious and highly educated.


Metrophobia can take several forms. Some sufferers fear all poetry, while others fear poems that deal with the specific subject matter or are written in a specific style. If poetry was something that stressed you out in grade school, then as an adult in college any contact with poetry or poetic readings can cause panic and anxiety.

You may refuse to participate in reading out loud or even start to skip classes. You may become uncomfortable when friends forward emails that contain poems. You may be reluctant to read unfamiliar books for fear of coming across an illustrative poem.

A quick fix for this is to try to avoid taking courses that have a large poetry component. All colleges offer course descriptions in the catalog of classes; read these carefully before registering.

Other places a metrophobic may come in contact with poetry is books, greeting cards, or when helping your children with their homework. If panic constantly arises in these situations, you likely need to seek treatment for metrophobia.


Who could forget the early scenes of the film Dead Poets Society, in which teacher John Keating leads his class in ripping out the pages of their poetry textbook that deal with the numerical grading of the written works? The liberation of removing the focus on “expert opinion” and narrow definitions of greatness, allowing creative work to be enjoyed for its own sake, becomes a hallmark of the film. Many of the students then go on to re-found the title society, learning to love and become inspired by the poetry of all types.

For many metrophobia sufferers, this is all that is needed. Therapy may be largely focused on stripping away the negative thoughts and beliefs that sufferers experience by helping them to realize that poetry transcends meter and verse. Helping the sufferer to recognize the creative freedom that poetry provides to both the creator and the reader is a major goal of metrophobia therapy.

You may not become a poetry lover, but you can learn not to fear it. A good therapist will work with you to develop the treatment plan that is best for you.

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  • American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

By Lisa Fritscher
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.