Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Surviving the Death of Poetry

     If poetry is alive we should be undertaking to reach the public through it.

     If poetry is dead we should be undertaking.

     Poetry, that thing that thrived on the audience's love of it, is dead.  A mode of communication that once rivaled the novel now fights for the same public attention afforded lacrosse--markedly less than curling.  In the last half century it has contributed not a single phrase, let alone an iconic poem, to the public discourse.

     Only two tiny minorities fail to understand this.  Stereotypical hipster muggles will roll their eyes in  exasperation at being told this for the umpteenth time.  Lacking empathy, they cannot imagine how frustrating it is for those who've had to tell them this obvious fact for the umpteenth time.
     Far more significant are those who have invested years in the art form and cannot bring themselves to acknowledge how far the stock has fallen.  Editors and teachers, especially, do not appreciate anyone spelling out the obvious because it undermines their prodigious efforts to revive a corpse.  Some reach for the flimsiest argument:  there is more poetry being produced by more people than ever before.  This dodge is beyond lame;  it is from where lame crawls off to die.  Leave aside the technicality that, despite there being more people than ever, there is no audience for any of this stuff.  Deal with the undeniable:  overproduction is, by definition, a problem, not a solution.

     These people are committed and, depending on how many other plain truths they deny, perhaps they should be.

     The question becomes:  How can we reconcile our love of poetry with our realization that it is a dead art form?

     Poetry has been gone for less than a century.  Granted, that lull is unprecedented in any culture, but it is barely an eye-blink compared to the silene stenophylla, a plant considered extinct but resurrected after 31,700 years under the permafrost. 
     Perhaps, if we can find enough of poetry's DNA, we can recreate a strain that can thrive in today's ecosystem.

     The paradox is that, in dealing with the death of poetry, we need to allow the death of poetries.  Whatever crackpot strains fail to find fertile ground need to be abandoned, not coddled in artificial environs or needlessly autopsied.  The last half century has taught us what doesn't work.  Let failure be its own post mortem.  Time to concentrate on what succeeds.  Whether tomorrow's breakthrough verses are retro or hypermodern is for audiences to decide on a piece-by-piece basis.  The only safe bet is that they will involve exemplary writing, performance and production.

    Put bluntly, those in denial regarding poetry's passing do the art form no favor. Like Elvis sighters, they trivialize the demise itself.  It was a sharp, painful decline that took place decades before most of us were born.  We are told that "thirteen is colder in the fall."  This was the bleakest of Autumns, made all the more so by not knowing that Winter would be longer than anything seen on "Game of Thrones".

     All of that said, the reincarnation of poetry could occur in the next few months or years.  Without reservation or hyperbole, it promises to be one of the most glorious events in human history.

    Your feedback is appreciated!

    Please take a moment to comment or ask questions below or, failing that, mark the post as "funny", "interesting", "silly" or "dull".  Also, feel free to expand this conversation by linking to it on Twitter or Facebook.  Please let us know if you've included us on your blogroll so that we can reciprocate.

    If you would like to contact us confidentially or blog here as "Gray for a Day" please use the box below, marking your post as "Private" and including your email address;  the moderator will bring your post to our attention and prevent it from appearing publicly.

    We look forward to hearing from you.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments and questions are welcome.