Poetry is Dead

Why does poetry still exist? I mean, really, it’s an archaic art form that had it’s revival during the heyday of the Poetry Slam a few years ago, and now should just go away. Like Netscape…not because they are useless or redundant, no: far from it. Literature would not exist without poetry, and the Internet would be reserved for those who knew how to decode HTML without Netscape. For whatever reason, their time is just done.

Seriously. Think about it: when was the last time you read a relevant and new poem? Poetry has metamophosised into a new creature: lyrics, rhymes, spam poetry…we just don’t do poetry like they used to. And anyone who calls themselves a “poet” is either 76 years old, or completely delusional. It would be like:

“So what do you do for a living?”
“I’m a telegraph operator.”
“But nobody uses the telegraph anymore.”
“Yeah, but that’s what I do.”
“Who cares?”
“I’m not sure.”

All the other avenues of art have evolved, why hasn’t poetry?

Now this thread is entirely inspired by listening to the CBC. The other day, they just had someone reading some contemporary, racially-charged poetry over the air. I was like: “How does this speak to anyone?” And DO NOT even get me started on the topic of spoken word. I can not and will not, deal.

I majored in creative writing at uni, and the idea today of being assigned the task of writing poetry is maddening. I would protest. Actually, I would not take that course to begin with. I do encourage, however, the study of poetry. There is much to be learned about our language and English culture through all art. Which brings me to the next idea: How can classical music, written hundereds of years ago, be interpreted properly? How can a player today possibly know how to play a composition when their existence was not informed by the appropriate culture? It’s like giving a Neanderthal a PS3 controller and expecting that he would know exactly what to do with it. Why do we try and force intuition? Is it merely in the name of preservation and tradition? Or is it rooted in something far deeper than that?

Please, I invite my readers to prove me wrong. I figure, since nobody is allowed to buy books anymore, that most youngsters don’t even know what poetry is anyway…

18 Replies to “Poetry is Dead”

  1. superconnected

    i keep the toothbrush brushing longer than necessary
    side to side over teeth and gums
    as i’m grooving side to side in the mirror
    i’ve got, well, the ipod going
    the little white intercessor
    for a private moment of détente
    in the lavatory
    after 8 hours of reading
    of the sadly skewed revolutionary
    skies of stalin-era left oppositionists
    and i’m angular-like swaying to the horn line
    the one that took me until the third night of three
    to learn. jumps around a lot on its cycle
    some kind of odd time signature that even now
    i can’t quite identify
    i used to have a saxophone-playing roommate
    – a genius if truth be told, and one who never did the dishes
    and fell asleep with his forehead
    flat against the kitchen table in the already fading light of a montreal afternoon –
    we’d have debates about the pronunciation of “wont”
    (he won, for such was his)
    and i’d aggravate him by making up
    time signatures that couldn’t exist
    11/9, i’d say, or 13/7
    he’d laugh, oh come on,
    but there was also unease.

  2. Nobody can ‘prove you wrong’ at the same time I wouldn’t call for either poetry or classical music to simply go away.

    I tend to think of all of ‘the arts’ even ‘media’ as part of a kind of toolbox for self expression. People create based on where their talent lies and on whatever they find the best way to express themselves. After that it is either kept secret, in which case who cares, or it is thrown to the public. Whether or not I like something doesn’t mean it’s good or bad for anyone but me.

    People consume arts, culture and media in much the same way they create it. It either speaks to them and they adopt it or it doesn’t speak to them and they don’t. When, for instance, people put together a mixed CD they are not contemplating what the musicians who recorded the music might think of it, they are creating a wholly new work that speaks to them or that they think will speak to whoever they are making it for.

    It is the same with any collection – looking at someone’s collection of music, art, books, dvd’s etc., should tell you something about the person – consciously or subconsciously the owner of the media intends it to say something about them in the same way that any respectable artists (consciously or subconsciously) intends their art to say something about them, about what they think or about how they see the world.

    But to prove something is valid is impossible, that’s what separates art from science there is no ‘proof’ in art, only theories. Personally I think that there is plenty of room in the personal expression tool bag to leave classical music and poetry there, even if we don’t use them much. Who knows, next year or the year after someone may have a brainstorm and find a whole new way to approach poetry and classical music and breathe new life into both.

  3. Alright I know nothing about poetry so I won’t even go there. But I think there are some great interpretations of classical music.

    I challenge you to purchase/download Franz Liszt’s 2 piano concerto’s by Sviatoslav Richter. That is hardly a Neanderthal picking up a PS3 controller. I’m sure if Liszt heard him play them he would shit himself. haha.

    Same goes with something like Elgar’s cello concerto by Jacky Dupre….she spent a life time perfecting that.

    The problem with classical music is that there are so many bad recordings out there due to the fact that anyone has the freedom to record them.

    Anyways, even if the classical recordings suck compared to the way they used to be preformed live by the real composers, it is way better than no classical music.

  4. Your dialogue between ‘misc’ and ‘telegraph operator’ made me literally ‘LOL’, but I don’t know if it’s an accurate analogy. Telegraphs have been replaced by better technology that serves us better. What has really replaced poetry?

    The thought that we can go back in time, to any period, any culture, and/or language, read one’s poetry and still be moved by it is truly beautiful. Poetry provokes thought. It encourages the reader to contemplate a world that exists outside of our visible three dimensions.

    Many have suggested that handwriting and correct spelling are quickly losing their relevance in this digital age. A simple shopping list from 20 years ago would probably look like a work of Shakespeare compared to most text messages today.

    Spoken word is definitely cringe-worthy on occasion. But it has its shiny moments, too. Especially when accompanied by certain music. (Check out “Want” by Recoil, featuring Nicole Blackman.)

    Oh, and as for the CBC, when have they ever actually ASKED Canadians what we think is relevant? Arrogant, uppity pricks…

  5. I am 34 years old and happy to be a poet. This is not how I make a living, but this is how I release my passion. My questions to you is;

    Is that which is felt…dead?
    Is that which brings life, joy, passion, and expresses the depths of emotion lifeless?
    I beg to differ. Poetry is formless and encompasses many feelings and visions even prophecy to some that would not even notice it, until the rhyme scheme or thought provoking words used by a wordsmith that is able to touch…enlighten those unaware of their own feelings, situations, and/or circumstances. And with that being done, people are able to make better decisions on their journey through life. Think, what would life be like had it not been for Robert Frost’s poem in where he travelled the road less travelled by? And what of Edgar Allen Poe’s “Raven”, who showed us the power and overwhelming passion that love can bring?
    Now maybe what you are saying is that poetry isn’t as popular as it used to be. On that, I will agree. But, all that does is inspire poets to revive the lives of the lost and enhance the vision of the masses until once again….WE LIVE, WE CREATE, WE NOTICE, WE WRITE. WE INSPIRE. FOR…. WE ARE POETS! And that is what we do.

  6. Open Your Mind
    by KingYoung1916

    We all have sight,
    But everyone doesn’t have a vision.
    We all have ears,
    But some prefer not to listen.
    We all have a mouth,
    But some rather not speak.
    We all have a brain,
    And still, some rather not think.

  7. I would suggest that readers make sure they have understood my post before they submit comments. I don’t think all poetry ever should go away – I never said that – just the business of today’s mass poetry. In my post I say that: “I do encourage, however, the study of poetry. There is much to be learned about our language and English culture through all art.” I don’t know how that can be interpreted as a renunciation of all poetry, ever.

    And to you, kingyoung1916, my respect for our canon of poetry is not as skin deep as you assume. In fact in a previous post I make reference to Frost’s The Road Not Taken…so it’s funny you should say that!

    It is all language, words, and how one chooses to use them. There are still poets in this world, lurking bards in unexpected places, speaking to the people in new and transformed ways that didn’t exist in 1955. So we agree on some things, but not on others.

    It just makes me crazy in the head when my words are misread and misinterpreted…especially in a discussion about language!

  8. I realised that my reply to people’s replies was kind of silly. I shouldn’t ever hope that anyone could possibly understand me, or how my thoughts are formed, by reading a hastily-written, 500 word essay…

    …so no apologies necessary, though I do appreciate!

  9. I can’t call myself a poet, but the pen has been a survival tool in my life.

    I once saw a crow walking on a train track
    Looking out and about not looking back
    Looking for food like any animal would
    I wondered, “Why would a bird walk on the ground when it could fly in the sky and have a better view?”
    I decided to take a closer look
    as i approached, the crow stretched out its wings and its body shook
    It looked at the sky and gave a scream
    its wings had been burned and flying was now a hopeless dream
    I yelled at the crow as i heard the train come
    but it laid on the ground and put its head down
    It was now an empty dream,
    an empty dream which will never be seen
    Black Crow, Black Crow
    Where did you go?

    this is a poem i call “Tightrope”

  10. Poetry is a creative way to express what you feel or what you think… also, in this modern days, writting poems that touch the soul of someone else is quite a challenge… but, for some people is still a valuable tool to say what they think… it´s kind of related to the Violins in this days, we have computers that are able to emulate the sound of a violin… but some people dont like computers, and some people want to learn how to play a violin, and there is still people capable to say “ahh, thats a real one, not a computer”…

    I use to think the same that you expressed in your post… but then i found that for me, some feelings could not be spoken, or written in letters, or emails, not even transmitted by touch or actions and then i found poetry… those ideas only sound real and have a meaning when i write them in poems… it´s a silly thing actually, but, it works for me.

    First reply in your blog by the way, im a big fan of The Dears from México city ! 😀

  11. Art, whether in poetic words or written on paper is a format to express the soul. it can also be reactive to the times it is written in as with the visual arts ie Impressionism’s reaction to a new technology, photography. So poets will react to ipods and computers,and again in the arts photoshop becomes a hodgepodge of disparate images woven together . As long as there is language artists will throw words together. is poetry relevant? does it have to be? does art have to exist. cavemen at Lascaux did some of the most dramatic art in the world there. is it relevant. Artists expressed themselves to show they were there! Poets are still here….relevant or not. The human soul longs for and yearns to be heard.
    ‘Twas the night before Christmas when all thru the house…………………………………

  12. Please excuse the ramble. My worry would be that young people today, so busy twittering in short blurbs of immediate uninsightful” mini-thoughts” or posting uninspired “junk” words on facebook , shortening the language to LoL’s etc might alter our sense of language irrevocably. So not only would the art forms of language be diminished, but language itself, as we lovingly know it, be altered, which as a matter of course it will be. And poets will inevitably respond to these changes

  13. i’m no poet or expert in literature/writing in any way but i agree with you..that poetry is dead or at least in my life and experiences it is. Its not that i do not appreciate it. There are poems to me that are direct, instant and undeniable. I think these are rare though. I for one just don’t have the patience to go through a poem several times to try to understand it. my impatience

    if poetry can be resurrected, i think it needs to be more accessible, urgent as twitter with the LOLs and OMGs. etc.

  14. Poetry is a pompous art form; it somehow evolved from a beautiful expression to a pseudo-artistic pissing contest.

    It takes a very special, already artistic subject to make a poem worthwhile. And no, not the Iraq war or 9/11 or Barack Obama.

    Maybe that was its downfall: trying to make a point, to have a punch line, instead of just going where it leads you.

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