I wrote this, and then realized that although it is not a poem, it does fit with Rockin’ Chair Prompts’ standing prompt, “What’s really on your mind?”.
I care about the future of poetry, as I’m sure that many of you who read this blog also do.
Poetry has existed since humankind could form together words and sentences. Poetry has told our stories, whether of national heroes vanquishing villains or individuals staring down their demons in the mirror. Poetry has shouted declarations of love from the rooftops or carried low growls of hatred in its belly. Poetry has been the voice of both the loud and the quiet…and has given voices to those who stood in danger of having their own voices snatched from them.
In my own life, poetry reached me at a young age and spoke to me directly in language that captured my heart. I have been writing poetry since age twelve and I have always loved the art form; I never stopped. I disconnected with my muse for several chunks of time that equate to almost ten years of silence. Last year, I started sporadically writing again; this year I am writing frequently.
With all of that having been said, I have been thinking about the current state and future of the art form. A couple of days ago, I posted a link to the Poetry and Pop Culture article that I found interesting. The author gives some suggestions for why poetry is becoming less of a cultural influence and what to do about it. I also found this article, reprinted from the May 1991 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. This I believe gives a way more in depth discussion of what has happened to poetry in the United States. While this article was published seventeen years ago, I don’t believe much has changed since then, except for the influence of slam and performance poetry.
So, what has happened to poetry? It has certainly become a less prominent art form in American Culture. Poetry, unfortunately, has become something to be endured grudgingly in high school English class or something expressed in a sort of poetry counterculture, never reaching beyond its own boundaries. This troubles me and others who love the art form and continue to create in it. We ask ourselves why this is happening. I myself am still unclear as to why. Many reasons are given for the downfall of poetry, including:
- the migration of poetry to the academic arena (as mentioned by Dan Gioia in the above article, Scott Woods in his last “Poetry is Doomed” column, and Thomas Dirsch in his book “The Castle of Indolence”)
- poetry becoming more of a private art form, with more lyrical and less narrative verse (see G.M. Palmer’s words on this on his blog, Strong Verse)
- the demise of the arts in general
So….I want to hear what others think about this. In your estimation, why IS poetry becoming less relevant in our culture? And can poetry really matter again? I think Gioia gives some great suggestions in his article (suggestions which I still feel have relevance in 2008), including spending more time improving the quality of the performance of poetry, seeking out radio as a medium, marrying poetry with other arts form, and so forth. Paradowski gives some good suggestions as well, including starting an open mic if your city does not have one, bringing poetry journals to your local high school, starting general interest poetry journals, and so forth. In addition, I recommend checking out the other installments of Scott Woods’ column, Poetry is Doomed.
Please, feel free to leave a comment! I want to hear people’s thoughts on the state and survival of poetry.