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Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

October 11, 2010

In my last post I mentioned that I have finally accepted that poetry is dead. I kinda feel a need to elucidate this because it’s a pretty controversial statement (well, it is to me, anyway) and I had a tough time admitting it to myself. I did the whole “5 stages of grief” thing:

  1. Someone else: “Poetry is dead. Me: “No, it isn’t.”
  2. “You are all abject morons for refusing to read, appreciate and understand this art form! I hate you all!” (Here is where I turn green and suddenly grow larger.) “Greer bite off moron’s head! Graaaah!” Pop! (That’s the sound of a head being bitten off, in case you were confused.)
  3. “If you read my poem, I’ll give you a lollipop.”
  4. … (That’s me too depressed to say anything else. I guess I could also do a : | face, but I try to avoid emoticons because, well, they are idiotic.)
  5. “Ok, fine, poetry IS dead, but I’m still not happy about it. Do not go gentle into that good night! Rage, rage against the dying of the light!” (Look, I said the title of the post in the post itself! That’s like when a character in a movie says the title of the movie!)

Now, when I say that poetry is dead, I don’t mean that it’s disappeared from the face of the earth, never to be seen again. Obviously literature students still study it, there are still books of poetry available for sale at Barnes and Noble, and there are still thousands of angst-ridden teens writing bad poems about departed pets, true love, or suicide, depending upon the degree of their angst. Latin is also dead, but that doesn’t mean that no one studies it anymore (Amo, amas/I loved a lass/Amas, amat/But she grew very fat). But as an art form that really speaks to people, poetry is dead (I both laugh at and feel sorry for anyone carrying the title of “Poet Laureate” for this reason…actually, who is our current Poet Laureate? I used to know the answer to that question. Ok, now who is that chick who sings that song “I Kissed a Girl”? I bet everyone knows the answer to that, except me…I thought it was Jill Sobule, but to be fair, I wasn’t entirely wrong.). In a way, poetry has been replaced by popular music, which I suppose is sort of appropriate because a lot of classical poetry forms started as song forms anyway. You know, like the oh-so-popular virelai. Who doesn’t remember that? Snark.

I think that poetry still had a fighting chance before the Internet took over, but now we may as well pull the plug on it. Writing on the Internet needs to be short and sweet, so the reader doesn’t strain her precious little eyes, but that’s not the problem. In fact, unless we’re talking about “The Faerie Queen” or “The Song of Hiawatha” or some other epic piece, most poems are pretty short.  This is one of the reasons why I had trouble admitting the art form was dead, because it seems like a PERFECT format for new media.

The problem is that another important thing about writing for the Internet is that writing has to be EASY TO UNDERSTAND. Poetry is not easy to understand, and that is both the reason why it is fascinating AND the reason why it had to die. Even a short, apparently simple piece like Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Pool Players” is actually quite complex (incidentally, she was once Poet Laureate, but that was over 20 years ago. WHO THE HELL IS THE POET LAUREATE NOW? Hang on…ok, Wikipedia tells me it’s W.S. Merwin. I feel better now, although I really don’t care about his poetry). But back to Brooks. In only a few words she addresses youthful rebellion AND mortality, and her syncopated rhythms are probably worth hours of discussion by people who have nothing better to do. Really understanding poetry takes a lot of work, and like so many other subjects that we were all forced to study ad nauseam in school, most of us aren’t willing to expend time on it unless we are being threatened with an “F,” or possibly an afternoon’s detention.

Another problem with poetry as an art form is that, apparently, everyone can write it. I’ve met people who say, “Oh, wow, I could never write fiction,” but I’ve never met anyone who thinks he can’t write a poem. There seem to be two general assumptions about poetry: first, that if something rhymes, it is automatically poetic, and second (paradoxically, because very few amateur poets are willing to do away with rhyme scheme), all other rules of verse are unimportant and as long as the poet FEELS something deeply, he has created art. (I’m not necessarily arguing for a revival of formal verse, here, I just think that people should study it and be aware that it exists if they want to write poetry). As you may have guessed, I think this approach is total bullshit, but there it is – everyone is a poet, and they didn’t even realize they were one.

Unfortunately, if everyone can do something, it isn’t really an art form, because “art” is synonymous with “skill” and “mastery.” (I readily admit, writing stories about aliens getting shot by rednecks and all the other ridiculous stuff I do is NOT ART. It just entertains me).  Is eating potato chips or wearing clean underwear art? No, although the latter is probably a good idea.

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89 Comments leave one →
  1. Steven Harris permalink
    October 12, 2010 9:24 am

    Short bursts of writing might suit different forms of poetry which – you never know – might re-emerge after a period of hiatus. Sonnets are short and often (bitter)sweet. Haiku is a popular form with a friend of mine who posts a new one every friday. Poetry is indeed rather unwell but it hasn’t quite flatlined yet.

    • October 13, 2010 6:19 am

      I concur, may be our reluctance to use our gray cells has resulted in the demise of [quality] poetry.

      Those were the days of dylan, lennon and waters when i used to go crazy during my school days. Then i graduated towards the Yeats and frosts. I am still meandering between trash poetry and cult classics.

      Do you know what drove me towards good poetry? Trash poetry. 🙂

      Hope is a good thing and there is an antithesis to everything.

  2. pen2sword permalink
    October 12, 2010 9:35 am

    Gah! How could you say that?
    Poetry, I assure you, is not dead. “Nothing of it that doth fade/ but doth suffer a sea-change/ into something rich and strange” as Shakespeare would put it. I myself just discovered poetry three years ago. Up until then I hated it in all its forms, mostly due to schoolteachers who insisted on making us write haikus about nature. Anyhow, not to get into my life story, I’ll just say stuff changed and I started writing poetry. I realized that it doesn’t have to rhyme. It doesn’t have to be about nature, or love, or inspirational things. My first poems sounded like Shel Silverstein– stuff about spiders and chess pieces and whatnot. But the more I wrote, the better I got, and the more I fell in love with it, and of course I’m still working on improving as I go along. In fact, I’m thinking of posting a few of my best on a “Poetry” page on my blog, if you want to check them out.
    (You know where I started writing poetry?
    The Internet. It can be used for both good and evil, methinks.)
    So then I started memorizing poems. It all started with Jabberwocky, and before I knew it I’d memorized nearly every poem in the Alice books. It comes naturally; I hear something and it sticks in my brain so long as it’s in poem form. Then I moved on to The Hunting of the Snark (my favorite), and The Lady of Shalott (who I am being for Halloween despite the fact that when I tell people that they go, “is that someone you made up?”)
    And this is a bit beside the point, but being a teen I feel I must point out to you that it is a bit unfair to disregard all teens as being “angsty”. But never mind– “…words are words. I never did hear/that the bruised heart was pierced through the ear.”

    So… Don’t give up on poetry.
    “The magic words shall hold thee fast/Thou shalt not heed the raving blast”.

  3. Yami permalink
    October 12, 2010 9:41 am

    I’m hoping heroic measures can be taken to save poetry from its death throws. But I share your concerns.

    • October 13, 2010 9:10 pm

      @Yami: sorry, but it’s “throes” as you use it there. Okay, I can move on now.

      • October 13, 2010 10:20 pm

        Hehehe, I’m sorry to say I had the same thought.

  4. Tyler permalink
    October 12, 2010 9:45 am

    Another problem is that, for the person who doesn’t read a lot of poetry, it is hard to distinguish between a really good and a pretty bad poem at first glance.

  5. October 12, 2010 9:53 am

    I like this! You make great points, but I don’t want to believe it’s dead. So I don’t.

  6. The Compleat Substitute permalink
    October 12, 2010 9:54 am

    Go to youtube search out spoken word – feel better. It’s not dead yet.

    • October 12, 2010 12:16 pm

      That’s what I was thinking. Beat poets and purveyors of spoken word are certainly keeping poetry alive and well these days. Perhaps they don’t appeal to all, but really…does poetry ever?

  7. October 12, 2010 10:02 am

    It is a shame. I, too, have thought that poetry is perfect for the 140 characters or less, attention deficit, read it and move on, generation.
    I guess it’s not much different than blogging – everyone CAN do it, but not everyone does it well. Where are the internet poets of our generation, starving hysterical naked . . .

  8. Sunflowerdiva permalink
    October 12, 2010 10:30 am

    I don’t believe poetry is dead. Not very popular and sometimes boring, but not dead. And I’m sure it will never die completely.

  9. October 12, 2010 10:32 am

    Oh don’t you worry about poetry being dead. Many a high school teen would assure you that poetry, is very much alive.

    PS we analyzed “Do Go Gentle Into That Good Night” in sophomore year. Awesome poem. Difficult to write any solid analysis on.

  10. October 12, 2010 10:38 am

    Studying poetry and writing it, are two different things. Yes you need knowledge of what makes a great poem, then again, poetry can’t be confined to rhythms, verses, etc,. When the flow is right, words and lines fall into place.

    Now, I won’t be so melodramatic as to say poetry is dead. Life just got busier than ever. It’s not simple anymore. The joys of meditation into deep thought is no longer there. And only in complete silence words dance to its tune.

    • October 12, 2010 10:25 pm

      Life is indeed busier than ever and it is sad how we have been robbed of time to just sit down, close our eyes, and let the creative juices of our minds flow.

  11. October 12, 2010 10:39 am

    I can’t write poetry that one should consider art. I have written poems. And some of them evoke deep emotions in others. But that’s all I got. Most of the poetry I come across strikes me as lazy and pretentious prose that doesn’t obey the rules of accepted syntax and grammar (and instead creates it’s own rules that are incredibly arbitrary) and alludes to things that are obscure and therefore (in my opinion) not very powerful.

    Of course, I recently posted a few of my not art poems on StubmleUpon and they have been getting a surprising amount of hits and likes. So maybe bad poetry isn’t dead.

    Crystal
    http://www.crystalspins.com

    P.S. I’d be interested in a few examples of what you consider to be good poetry. I’m a fan of Shakespeare myself. Although iambic pentameter is more a word puzzle than poetry to me.

  12. Jeremy permalink
    October 12, 2010 10:50 am

    Never… Poetry is not dead, and will outlive all of us!

  13. Ishana permalink
    October 12, 2010 10:51 am

    I disagree. Poetry may not be part of pop culture, but I consider that a good thing. The list of poetry books published this year alone is massive. A friend of mine received a few lovely poems from a secret admirer. Two of my other friends write poetry. Though neither are laureate-quality, they’re certainly better than I am.

    Everyone can write poetry, just as everyone can write a novel, but not everyone can write either exceptionally well. Some people, like myself, cannot get their minds to work in the right way to produce moving poetry. Anything more complex than a haiku, and my mind goes blank. I can, however, write fiction.

    I always considered poems as things that should be read aloud. That’s why poetry readings are so fantastic and why bards had jobs in the first place. As pen2sword said, words in poem form are much easier to remember, which is likely how poetry was first created: to pass on information orally. Such tradition has carried on through music. The main purpose isn’t to pass on information anymore, but to entertain, convey emotions, or tell a story. Perhaps all three. While not all songs are poetry with musical accompaniment, you don’t have to look hard to find songs that are.

    Poetry isn’t dead. It has evolved.

  14. October 12, 2010 10:56 am

    Frankly, I’d never really thought of this aspect… Well I think you’re right about the poetry dying away, but it is not just a singular event. We want everything instantaneously, put on a plate, and decorated with flowers. I believe that any poem has more than one possible inferences, because every person who reads it has a different (most of the time) perception about it. But with songs, there’s not much left for the brain, its just almost always a singular way of expressing one’s self… I guess our generation isn’t really comfortable in wanting to imagine.. Of course that is only my view.
    However, I still feel that if given a chance, poetry could definitely be revived, not just from the poets’ point of view (you’re right, we’re ALL poets!) but from the reader’s point of view too…

  15. October 12, 2010 11:32 am

    That’s one reason why I respect poetry. It makes you think about what’s been written. I don’t think it’s easy to write either. I’ll admit I’m not very good at it. That’s why I don’t call what I write poetry, I call it lyrics because that’s what it is.

  16. October 12, 2010 11:36 am

    I tried (going into the good night that is), and it was all dark and stuff, and I like started screaming and shit, which was not … gentle. So maybe the dude was right after all: it seriously is not possible to go gentle into that night. And all that rage rage: you can only take so much of that, and then it’s all woo-woo, if you know what I mean. So maybe poetry is not that dead after all. You know?

  17. October 12, 2010 11:40 am

    WS Merwin (now living on Maui) and Katie Perry. Poetry is not dead, and neither is pop music!

  18. theboredpoetess permalink
    October 12, 2010 11:57 am

    NOOooo! Poetry is not dead!!
    It’s just that its not often read!
    Or produced as much, too, I guess,
    Which is your blog’s point – but I digress!
    As long as there are those willing to try
    And hear what meaning beyond the words lie,
    Poetry is evergreen.
    (And I apologize for my rhyming scheme.)

  19. Steven Harris permalink
    October 12, 2010 12:12 pm

    Poetry moves us before we understand it – maybe today’s throwaway society lacks soul and therefore no longer needs poetry to help us understand things we cannot rationalise.

    • October 13, 2010 6:24 am

      Despite the glossy surface of today’s society, I personally don’t think that it lacks soul. Society by its very nature is made up of people, and people are fairly well designed to express themselves and their souls in a myriad of ways…. the ways have changed over the years, but the drive to create art, music, literature, to progress in science and to explore is still very much present. You just need to look beneath the ‘throw-away’ veneer (although the veneer is fairly deep these days!)

      And on that note, I don’t think poetry is dead. Perhaps it is changing, but there’s life there yet.

  20. October 12, 2010 12:18 pm

    Ah, unfortunately I agree. I’ve written poetry. I know its value. For me, it’s like a blend of music and narrative. But, like other forms of expression (like written letters), it is, if not dead, morphing into something else.

  21. October 12, 2010 12:37 pm

    Pop music may be filled wit bad poetry BUT Bruce Springsteen once said his favorite living poet is Smokey Robinson. And what about that tour de force we heard at the Winter Olympics this year?

  22. October 12, 2010 12:51 pm

    Wow, I never expected that my humble little blog would attract this much attention. Thanks to the folks at WordPress for giving me a spot on the front page. I hope all you readers will maybe check out some of my other posts if you like my style and perhaps take the time to subscribe (shameless self-promotion!)

    I understand that not everyone is going to agree with the sentiments I expressed in this post. Like I said, this is a controversial subject. I have two main points here: first, that poetry does not speak to people the way it once did, and second, that poetry can no longer be considered an art form because anyone can write it. Even I can see how these two points apparently contradict each other, but there it is: very few people take the time to study and understand poetry, but almost everyone thinks they can write it.

    I’m going to try to address some of the many comments, because you all have interesting things to say! Here goes:

    Haiku are actually an excellent example of what I’m talking about, because the haiku format is considered by many to be a format that anyone can reproduce. I also feel like haiku are often under-analyzed…they are deceptively simple little snapshots but there is often more going on in a haiku than meets the eye.

    Of course not all teenagers are angsty. That was a joke. As a twenty-something, most of my comments about teens are poking fun at myself as a teenager, because I was a dumbass.

    I really don’t know how to feel about spoken word poetry. That might just be a topic for a future blog.

    Studying poetry and writing it CAN be very different things, and I think that is a tremendous shame. No one thinks that they can just pick up a guitar and be a virtuoso (well, ok, maybe someone does but he is either completely insane, not very bright, or channeling the spirit of Mozart). Most other art forms DO require study and training, so why is poetry different? Study and writing should go hand in hand, in my opinion. Same thing goes for fiction.

    Some of my favorite poets are Mina Loy, Brenda Shaughnessy, e.e. cummings, Bob Kaufman, Sharon Olds, Carol Ann Duffy, Pablo Neruda…there are many more, but those are the ones that spring immediately to mind. I also enjoy Shakespeare and some Spenser, and I generally like to read formal verse from time to time just to get a feel for different types of meter and rhyme scheme.

    And to all of you who just flat-out disagree with me, that’s cool. I agree that poetry continues to survive for individuals who are interested in poetry. Unfortunately, I think there are fewer and fewer of those individuals out there these days.

    • October 13, 2010 4:00 am

      Leonard Cohen would have to be the definitive Poet of our Age.

    • Steven Harris permalink
      October 13, 2010 11:42 am

      Everyone might THINK they can write poetry but it doesnt mean they can. And good job too. Am tired of having peoples doggerel thrust upon me as though I ought to bow down before their genius. My yardstick is to imagine that it’s something found in Larkin’s wastepaper basket. So few lost gems there, so much discarded drivel I’m sure.

  23. unabridgedgirl permalink
    October 12, 2010 2:19 pm

    Very entertaining post. 🙂 While I can see your point of view, I do disagree. I don’t think poetry is dead at all. I know many a people who have studied the art form and write their own poems. (Never mind the fact that poetry books, new ones from new authors, don’t get published all that much anymore.)

    PS You used the word snark, which means you are awesome.

  24. Amanda permalink
    October 12, 2010 2:47 pm

    Poor poetry: Someone declares it dead every 25 years or so.

    Good thing they’re never right.

  25. Jonathan permalink
    October 12, 2010 3:05 pm

    How does this all tally with the idea that “everything is art” ?

    • October 12, 2010 3:28 pm

      I am definitely of the opinion that NOT everything is art, so there you go.

  26. October 12, 2010 3:13 pm

    this post was/is tragically delicious.

    being a narcissistic and self-proclaimed poet, it pains me to agree with basically everything you’ve written in this piece. Glad I found it. And I’m bummed that I read it. Already a love hate thing going on with this blog. Think I’ll go write a poem about it…..

    • October 12, 2010 3:29 pm

      You are my hero. Temporarily, at least. There is always another Skywalker, after all.

      • October 12, 2010 3:33 pm

        yes good sir, there is always another.

        I’ve had one more thought, having read through your blog and noticed that there isn’t any poetry. The kind folks at WordPress must also agree with you and are using you to subtly tell us to shut the F up. Ha ha. Brilliant.

        I’m supposing that makes them….the ewoks?

        Glad I found this blog, adding you to my list of reading. Keep it up.

      • October 12, 2010 3:53 pm

        I actually do write a bit of poetry, I just don’t post it on my blog because then it can be difficult to get it published elsewhere (as if that weren’t hard enough already!). I certainly am not trying to tell poets to shut up; on the contrary, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light!” and rock on.

      • October 12, 2010 4:02 pm

        No no, I meant that the kind folks at WordPress are trying to get us to shut up. Perhaps they are tiring of all the whiny-assed poets sucking down their bandwidth.

        😉

  27. October 12, 2010 3:28 pm

    Maybe this is too easy, but what about a blog that highlights short, easily understood poetry?
    Better an internet version than nothing?

    -Wineguider
    http://www.wineguider.wordpress.com

  28. October 12, 2010 3:31 pm

    Poetry is only as “dead” as those who perceive it to be. That’s as true about poetry as anything in life that we try to cast a negative shadow upon. If your view is that poetry is dead, naturally, you’re going to miss out on a lot of wonderful things and a lot of great poets. You’ve already convinced yourself it’s dead, so you’re subconsciously never going to look for anything new or any kind of hope to the contrary.

    I’ve never viewed myself as a very good poet. Fiction is my strong point, poetry not so much. However, as a writer, I find myself dabbling in poetry now and then, mostly because I have respect for it as an art form and it’s unique version of self-expression. In this age of “Gimme Now” where everything is instantaneous, I think poetry lends us pause to actually read and think, perhaps even feel.

    Of course, that’s all subject to each person’s individual perception. So, perhaps, instead of blaming everyone else, you should reopen your heart and mind to the idea that poetry is NOT dead. It may be a little harder to find or perhaps you’ve overlooked some really great things in your “poetic depression”, but certainly not dead. ^_^

    Look around you, explore… I’m sure you find poets and poetry well worth reading if you just look hard enough.

    • October 12, 2010 3:57 pm

      Actually I love poetry, and I enjoy discovering new poets. I’m not trying to blame anybody, I just think the art form is past its prime. I don’t particularly like it, but it is what I think.
      Also, are you saying that I’m dead?
      *pinches self*
      Ow!
      Nope, definitely still alive.

  29. October 12, 2010 3:44 pm

    I feel your pain (you’re right, it hurts!).

    Seriously, though, if you apply your logic more broadly, music is pretty much dead too. The de-evolution process is: Art=only skilled are doing it, Dead art=anyone can do it, Totally dead art=computers are doing it indistinguishably from people.

  30. October 12, 2010 3:44 pm

    I understand the frustration. I recently graduated with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, with concentration in poetry. There’s not much to do but try to publish chapbooks, though. It’s difficult.
    I read an article somewhere (I’ll have to hunt for it now) that argued the reason poetry is struggling is not because readers have trouble distinguishing between bad and good poetry (as another comment suggested) but rather that so much of the poetry that is out there is simply neutral. It’s easy to dismiss bad poetry as bad and it’s easy to applaud good poetry that’s good. It’s much more difficult to deal with poetry that is neither bad nor good.

  31. October 12, 2010 3:57 pm

    First of all, I like the Dylan Thomas reference. ❤

    But I don't think poetry is dead. It may have lost a bit of its popularity, but poetry is still being written, some of very high quality. As with any other genre of writing, people can attempt to write and may think their writing is "good" but it is ultimately up to the public who receives the poetry to determine the quality of writing. Not everyone can write good poetry. Not everyone THINKS they can write good poetry. But those who do write good poetry excel at it, leaving those who are willing to read it intrigued and inspired. I'll admit, I'm no poet myself, although I have attempted to write poetry in the past. Nevertheless, I have read modern poetry that makes my skin tingle just as much as any poem out of the 1800's…so in that sense, poetry is still just as much alive!

  32. October 12, 2010 4:14 pm

    Yeah POETRY i love that stuff. You should take a look at my lame ass blog. i like your style its pretty cool.

  33. Pamela permalink
    October 12, 2010 4:32 pm

    Yes, rage! Poetry certainly is far from being stuffed into a tomb or buried (alive) in a mahogany coffin.

  34. squeagan permalink
    October 12, 2010 6:30 pm

    I feel really hurt by the stereotype that all teenagers write angst ridden, suicidal poetry. A) I am a teenager and write poetry, and without trying to be arrogant or anything, I think I can say that it’s very good, and not suicidal. =). B) I know teenagers who have SERIOUSLY contemplated suicide, not just as part of some trendy emo phase. And if they did write about it, it was real, it was quality, and it helped them deal with their feelings and essentially saved them.

    I’ll be posting my poetry on my wordpress (It’s new) but if you just want some proof that poetry is NOT DEAD and you’re too picky to give anything a 17 year old writes credit, pick up a New Yorker or similar publication, or just look around you. You’ll find quality poetry in many places. Saying poetry is dead because of some bad examples, some horrible song lyrics, etc, is quite foolish.

    • October 12, 2010 9:29 pm

      I’m sorry if I offended you. I am flippant. I make tasteless jokes. It’s kinda my thing. It wasn’t meant to insult anybody.

  35. October 12, 2010 6:41 pm

    Poetry makes one think which is something the average person doesn’t quite know how to do anymore in our society which has been overrun by the dumb jock mentality.

  36. October 12, 2010 9:07 pm

    TIME : Tells the TRUTH.
    People : Call TIME a LIAR.
    TIME : CORRECTS People.
    It’s that simple. As the Sun is seen on my “side”, someone sleeps elsewhere.
    They can’t see my movement. I… CAN’T see their DREAMS.

  37. kevin permalink
    October 12, 2010 9:21 pm

    Like dancing, i do not think poetry will die or extinct. it will still dwell in the hearts of some no matter what activity they do in life.,

  38. October 12, 2010 9:33 pm

    How about this- Poetry isn’t what is dying (and I think you’re meaning…good, quotable in 100 yrs poetry?), but poets…true, deep thinking, vast feeling, poets are harder to come by, and I’ll blame it on the internet. Everyone can now express themselves in whatever way they choose in status updates, tweets, and blogs, so less writers’/poets’ modus operandi is no longer poetry. They’re releasing elsewhere, because they can. Generational thing, I think.

    • October 12, 2010 9:36 pm

      I’m with you there. I use the Internet constantly, I admit it. But I’m also a little freaked out by what it’s doing to writing. I can’t really speak to any other element of culture, but trying to make it as a writer in an electronic world is…not at all what I expected it to be.

  39. October 12, 2010 9:58 pm

    Was poetry ever alive?

    Kidding. I agree with an earlier post that most people not used to reading poetry have a hard time deciphering between a good poem and a dodgy one.

  40. October 12, 2010 10:34 pm

    Poetry is not dead, per se. It is just difficult to find, due to the growing flood of slush that is angst-ridden rhyme.

  41. October 13, 2010 12:24 am

    Not everyone is a poet for having wrote a poem, just as simple as that. The fact that it was supposed to be poetry does not at all mean that it is really poetry. A poem is the piece, the cultural product, poetry is a diffuse place in what is called “art”.
    Being such a ridiculous purist as not to understand the changes that time always is placing over the art, definitely is not to enjoy art. That is, my beloved friend, a way of denying art itself, it is what people did with the greatest writters of yesterday, just because they could not appreciate the beauty of their work.

    Ménard said once, –if my memory does not fails– a poet will not hesitate to use words as “windmill” or “plough” in a poem but they can’t use words such as “tractor” or “turbine”.
    Or something similar, but the point is, people is calling poetry to a bunch of pretty words piled up in a page, and as far as I know, it is. Because they do not see poetry as it is, they see only a few structures, and they use those structures to express feelings.
    Thus poetry IS NOT dead, but unfortunately most of well known and –for me– best poetry writers ARE dead.
    My conclusion:
    – Writting crappy poems does not make you a poet.

    – Not everything that is poetry is worth being read.

    – If you can not appreciate no one’s poetry, then you are the problem,
    something called “self esteem” or “security” or alike, is not in its right place…

  42. October 13, 2010 12:54 am

    Poetry (at least the good kind) has always been for intellects…and intellects are in short supply these days…poetry will rebound when people start valuing intelligence again…

  43. October 13, 2010 12:56 am

    I have shared so many of your thoughts. Poetry is a fight. It has changed since the epics, and will continue to change. It won’t die. It will adapt like most things living.

    at least that is what I hope. I am part poetry :).

    P.S.
    good stuff you have going here! keep it up!

  44. October 13, 2010 1:42 am

    I think, like every thing poetry must evolve. Like Heroic Couplet gave way to Free Verse, poetry in it’s given form must follow suit. Also, I think the word poetry has some connotations that must be lifted. Culturally speaking, I think it either carries the idea of something which people do not understand, or mad-at-their-momma teens. Neither of which is appealing to the masses. Poetry won’t die, but it will change.

  45. October 13, 2010 2:16 am

    I wholeheartedly agree.
    It is a sad, sad thing. I think we live in an age where everything must be instant. Poetry is not, as you mentioned. It’s not easy to understand (like idiotic emoticons, for instance hah!) and it is not quick.
    It’s amazing being a teacher and starting a poetry unit. My students hate me in the beginning of it; but in the end each student usually finds a specific type of poetry or a specific poem that they like. They just need somebody to open their eyes to it…

  46. October 13, 2010 2:26 am

    I don’t think poetry is dead. It just took on a new form. Songs are a form of poetry so everytime someone writes a song, they are also writing a poem. Formal poems have to be measured by syllables and usually ends in rhymes. Just because people think that it is dead does not mean it is just like how we still use words with Latin roots. However, a song is really a poem. It is hard to write songs if it does not have a lyrical quality into it and poems just fill that spot.

  47. October 13, 2010 4:07 am

    Hey thanks Grirova for a thoughtful post with a nice touch of humour. I guess poetry books are never going to be best-sellers but let’s hope that some special poets will still have their work see the light of day.
    Poetry can shine a much-needed light on love and hate, war and peace, beauty and destitution so hopefully it will continue to be studied in schools and universities.

  48. October 13, 2010 4:30 am

    Great post!

    Poetry and haiku are best left to the experts. I’m not in that group, of course. I’m good a short verbal rhymes which I quickly forget, since I don’t write them down. Attempting to write haiku creates a brain fog, and poetry writing is maddening.

  49. October 13, 2010 4:48 am

    Dylan Thomas just called me and said that as long as Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss are being published, then poetry is not dead.

  50. October 13, 2010 5:32 am

    I’m hoping heroic measures can be taken to save poetry from its death throws. But I share your concerns.

  51. October 13, 2010 6:16 am

    Poetry dead?
    I could not disagree more but do congratulate you on writing such an emotive piece for which I am certain you will be read extensively for a day or two.
    Poetry is more alive than ever before, infact, poetry is fresher, more relevent and necessary than it has been for decades, centuries.
    In this world of instant gratification, poetry offers the delicious ‘other world’ provided by novels, yet is immediate and filling, leaving the essence of something bigger.
    Perhaps you are only reading bad poetry, if there is such a thing.
    FYI, Carol Ann Duffy is the Poet Laureate for the UK at the moment. Her poetry is not to my taste but it is magnificent and always worth a read.
    I am a poet and I am in love with poetry.
    Ebby. (beeskiffle)

  52. October 13, 2010 6:48 am

    I imagine there was a similar outcry when television first became popular. “Reading is dead! Writing is dead! Art is dead! They’re all just crashing out in front of the tube!”

    The internet will change things, for sure, but it can’t kill art–the artist has to express, it’s a need rather than a desire. Poetry may change, but it will always itch in people’s fingertips. I’m sure that many people have always tried to be artists without the passion or talent–we just never saw quite so many of them offering up their lackluster offerings before 😀

  53. Delorfinde permalink
    October 13, 2010 8:05 am

    Poetry isn’t dead. I like writing poetry — I’m not saying it’s brilliant, but it makes me feel better, and I post them all on the internet … so far the comments haven’t been too bad, so that’s all good.

    In fact, you can read some of them here: http://www.protagonize.com/poem/a-notebook-or-two

    No, this isn’t shameless self advertising, I really did want to comment and say that I didn’t think it was bad! I just thought I’d leave the link while I was here 🙂

  54. October 13, 2010 8:34 am

    Its Carol Anne Duffy…it was Andrew motion but he gave up the title…the first person to ever do so…I don’t know who that chick is…it may be dead in your universe but not mine. Dylan Thomas is, however, dead, he drank 14 whiskeys and died…

    • October 13, 2010 11:12 am

      Ah, you must be in Britain. I actually knew that Carol Ann Duffy was Poet Laureate over there, because she’s one of my favorite poets. I’m American and I was unaware of who my own nation’s Poet Laureate was, which is kind of sad.

  55. October 13, 2010 9:36 am

    I appreciate the passion and skill with which you wrote this post, but have to disagree with the final statement “Unfortunately, if everyone can do something, it isn’t really an art form, because “art” is synonymous with “skill” and “mastery.” Some of the most beautiful art is amateur, I think- not the fussy stuff of masters. (A fingerpainting may not be GOOD art, but it’s art, to me.)

    In any event, I do agree that poetry is no longer at the forefront of appreciated writing, and this is sad. But some are still fighting the good fight (http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/).

    • October 13, 2010 11:09 am

      I appreciate what you’re saying, but I meant literally synonymous, as in, if you look up “art” in a thesaurus, “skill” and “mastery” are synonyms that that reference book suggests, as well as “expertise,” “virtuosity,” and “creativity.” And I think a finger painting can be art, too, if it is executed with skill.

  56. October 13, 2010 11:14 am

    Loved your post. I’ve studied poetry heavily in the past in grad school and there are several things I have learned about poets and poetry. There are the literary academic poets who hate one who proclaims to be a poet but isn’t literary. Literary poets have a strangle hold on what is considered “good” artistic poetry. There are different warring factions of literary poets. Some believe one should write down so anyone can understand(Billy Collins.) Some believe that poetry should only be read by a select group of people. (I’ll keep those names to myself.) It’s kind of a plebs versus the patricians in the poetry world. The patricians hate the plebs and vice versa.

    Is poetry dead? It depends on who wins the war.

    If one looks back at the poetry published over the centuries(and don’t focus on the well known ones), you’ll find plenty of bad poetry that people loved that isn’t studied. Some was published in the 19th century in women’s magazines. We still have poetry in women’s magazines but it seldom receives the recognition it deserves. There also wasn’t well developed domains of good and poetry back then. Edgar Allen Poe was among the first literary critics. He was often caustic in his appraisals of his fellow poets’ attempts at poetry. He could be called one of the first literary snobs. Literary and poetry snobbery is alive and well. In my honest opinion, it is the poetry critics and snobs who hold the life of poetry in their hands. They can back off and let inferior poets join in so more people can enjoy it or suffer the consequences. To be honest, much literary poetry is so complex and requires such a high reading ability that only the college educated can enjoy it. What is wrong with the high school graduate understand it as well? Art/poetry should be for everyone. That’s why the National Endowment for the Arts is in trouble. We need to re-educate everyone about the need to enjoy art and poetry. Poets of lesser ability need to be championed because more people can enjoy their writing.

    People tend to have bad experiences with poetry in Kindergarten through twelfth grade. No one likes being manacled and force fed anything. If poetry was taught to be fun and inspiring, more children would come to love poetry. Shel Silverstein was a wonderful children’s poet.

    Another thing is I love spoken word. When I teach creative writing, I get the best response out of my students when I teach spoken word. At my college, we’ve even had Spoken Word events to allow students to express themselves to great acceptance.

    I think the popularity poetry was once enjoyed is dying but at the same time, poetry is being reborn, being reinvented through song words and spoken word amongst other forms I’m not aware. The thing is we’ve got to continue to rage against the light! We can’t allow the patricians to take it away from the plebs. At least that is my opinion.

  57. Rich Boucher permalink
    October 13, 2010 12:06 pm

    Some “first blush” thoughts:

    You said, “Writing on the Internet needs to be short and sweet, so the reader doesn’t strain her precious little eyes, but that’s not the problem.” Why does writing on the internet need to be short and sweet? Who says so? Go to duotrope.com, which is a great resource for poets looking for online journals to send work to, and you will find quite a few journals that publish what I’d call (your mileage may vary lengthy, or, “ambitious” work.

    You also said, ‘The problem is that another important thing about writing for the Internet is that writing has to be EASY TO UNDERSTAND.” Again, I would ask, “Who says so?” I think “easy” is also a somewhat subjective measure. I understand Gwendolyn Brooks, James Tate, Charles Simic and Sharon Olds just fine.

    And later on, you said this: “Another problem with poetry as an art form is that, apparently, everyone can write it.” This is not apparent to me. As a writer and performer of poetry for a span of time nearing twenty years, I’ve lost track of how many times someone has come to me, after a feature performance, and said, approximately, “Wow. I could never do that!” Sure, everyone can TRY to write poems, but will every attempt yield a poem? You may not ever have met anyone who believes they cannot write a poem, but I suppose your experience might be an artifact of, collectively, the social circles you run in. I’ve met loads of people (through features, readings, salons, writing groups) who swear up and down that they can’t “do” poetry.

    I conclude that poetry is not “dead”.

    BUT

    if general, collective interest in it seems to be waning, I’d offer that it’s up to the poets to be interesting; it’s up to the poets to make their work interesting and compelling, too.

    That’s just my .02 here in Albuquerque.

    Be well.

    Rich Boucher

    • October 13, 2010 12:46 pm

      When I say that writing needs to be short and sweet and easy to understand on the Internet, I’m speaking from a business perspective. I’m trying to make money in this crazy electronic age, and as a writer just starting out a lot of what I write is web content. Readers won’t read through a whole article if it’s too long or if it’s confusing to them. I realize that web content is different from poetry or other literature, but I do think that this concept has begun to carry over into other types of writing on the Internet as well. In general, I think what we’re seeing is a trend towards brief and easily digestible writing online. There may be websites out there that contradict this trend, but there are many more that are following it.

      And I was also trying to express the idea that there are far more would-be poets than there are readers of poetry. In my experience, the poetry market is often flooded with submissions, and not all of them are of good quality. I was generalizing in the post, I admit it…that’s kind of part of my writing style, I like to use stereotypes because I think they are funny.

  58. October 13, 2010 11:35 pm

    no, poetry is not out..i love poetry, it can never be replaced with any modern technology on writing..it remains through ages..

  59. October 13, 2010 11:51 pm

    I enjoyed reading your article. another paradox I might add: Pinocchio says that every time he tells a lie his knows grows. If he tells the truth his nose doesn’t grow, but then it becomes a lie and his nose does grow, inevitably making it the truth. Ha paradoxes are so much fun. But back to your article, I enjoyed it. Unfathomably in my blog I have a section labeled poetry, and well… it doesn’t rhyme, but I do not consider myself a poet by far, rather a philosopher. I hate writing poems, or whatever I should call them concerning your article, about suicide and stuff like that. I try to make them more philosophical and harder to understand, at least that’s what I hope they are. I don’t know, I wouldn’t mind you reading them and critiquing them in the least, I enjoy learning what people think of them. Just don’t hold it against me that I labeled it under poetry.

  60. October 14, 2010 3:35 pm

    The Pendulum swings for all things. Don’t fret grirova, for it will swing back in time. Also be aware that poetry is evolving. I believe it’s in another puberty stage and you know how that goes.

  61. October 15, 2010 4:49 pm

    Poetry is not dead!! some people (not everyone)just don’t appreciate that poetry can be and is very beautiful! Poetry doesnt have any gadgets or gizmos so therefore it is seen as ‘old fashioned’ if your in the UK, last week was national poetry week. I listened to the most moving and uplifting poetry everyday! I just wish there were more days of poetry!

  62. claire2 permalink
    October 15, 2010 5:04 pm

    If you look at poetry in its original, truest sense – a means of pure self-expression combined with lyricism and various conventions of rhyme and metre – then poetry is dead, because it is too self indulgent, too unregulated and there is simply too much of it in the internet age. And as for poetry as a commercial art form; well it is ridiculous, since it is obviously completely unworkable and impractical…I read something similar recently, about the printed novel, and found the idea of ditching hardback copies of novels totally depressing as well.
    And yet. Here we are, blogging and talking about poetry, which just proves that it is like a bad itch or an addiction which just refuses to go away. Poetry has not gone away, any more than fiction and story telling will die out. They will simply evolve and morph into new places and genres – song writing, twitter, the internet. It is part of human instinct and life to make music and meaning from our experiences.

  63. October 17, 2010 9:46 pm

    Um…I can’t write poetry. Besides…I don’t think poetry is dead. Its just not cool to listen to without at least a drum in the background, and frequently called lyrics instead

  64. William T Walker permalink
    October 25, 2010 6:35 pm

    No – poetry is not dead – people’s brains are. Poetry runs through my heart, keeps me going when times are tough. Poetry is in my life; poetry tells of my life. Watch Jay Leno when he does the Jay-walking shtick. I thought at first that it was sort of like Saturday night live, with rehearsed actors. I commented to my wife that they were good actors because a normal person could not act so stupidly. “They are real people off the street dear.” – her answer shocked me. Stupid people scare me – I am very scared. buidoi

  65. October 31, 2010 1:06 am

    I don’t think so…
    poetry is not dead!
    I think today poetry is more popular!

    Also each day, demands its own poetry! maybe some day, the subjects of poetries becomes “lack of poetry” or “lack of poem” or…
    So poetry never dies, because feelings are always alive! always alive!

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