And poems do?
In truth, almost no contemporary poems, starting with his own, hold up to scrutiny now or over time, with or without music. In fact, over the last forty years the batting average of lyricists has been better than that of poets by a factor of infinity. To wit, during that time we've had thousands of hit songs but not a single iconic poem--not even within the community that claims to read it (i.e. poets).
|Jim Morrison, 1943-1971|
And Billy Collins is?
The Great Unwashed for whom Billy Collins expresses such disregard will be indifferent or feel the same way toward him [and, to be fair, most other living poets]. At the far extreme from the unfamiliar masses are the geeks sharing the same opinion. Without exception, the more we know about the elements of the craft the lower our opinion of BC's "work" sinks. Between those two poles are the dilettantes, few of whom could recite a single line he's written. Here is a practical test: Find those who confess to not knowing the difference between BC's offerings and poetry. Ask them if "The Red Wheelbarrow" is free verse or metrical. Not one will get it right.
The problem is that ConPoets such as Mr. Collins jury rig their definition of poetry to fit what they like to write without regard to technique, prosody, memorability, audience or any other measurable. This is why we cringe whenever we hear the expression "substance over form." When pseudointellectuals contend that depth is what distinguishes poetry from prose I wonder what authors they are reading. Similarly, when they draw false dichotomies between poems and lyrics, I recommend songwriters like Cohen, Dylan, Ferron, Mitchell and others, inviting comparison between their verses and the pallid lines we see in literary 'zines. This is not just the standard rhetorical ploy of comparing the Best of A to the Worst of B. As uncommon as great song lyrics are, fine poetry is rarer still. Always has been.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #11|
As for contemporary poetry standing the test of time, almost no one alive in 2015 can recite a single line of text-only poetry (i.e. without music) written during Jim Morrison's glory years between 1967 and 1971. Thus, "Light my Fire" alone has already eclipsed everything Mr. Collins and his contemporaries will produce. Don't expect that to change in the next 44 years. Or the next 440. Does this make Jim Morrison a good poet?
Hardly, but it does make him a bad one--in every sense of the word--and that is a start. Poetry is one of only two modes of communication. Does anyone wish to argue that Doors lyrics are prose?
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #148|
To avoid this assessment, we could apply the original, objective, demand side (tinds) definition of poetry but with that comes the sobering realization that nothing written in the last half century qualifies.
As Leonard Cohen says, "poetry is a judgement, not a claim." No audience? No judgement. No poetry.
Tree. Falling. Forest.