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

Saturday, April 18, 2015

State of the Union - 2015

     As you know, there are three essentials in poetry:


     We are witnessing the sad demise of the last generation to be alive while poetry was.  It is grim accounting but we could, I suppose, take some tiny, cold comfort in knowing that the decline in poetry's audience is bottoming out.  Is there reason to hope it might begin to rise soon?

Margaret Ann Griffiths

     The caliber of composition has obviously declined, slowly but steadily, since "Prufrock".  Poetry fundamentals disappearing from our education system in the middle of the 20th century accelerated this process.  Nevertheless, thanks in large part to the Internet, it can be argued that poetry struck its nadir in the 1980s and is beginning to turn around.  Yes, I might be guilty of some generational narcissism but I'd have no reservations about pitting today's best versers¹ against anyone after Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) and Robert Frost (1874-1963).    


     No matter how we feel about the quality of text and the quantity of listeners (tanl), we can only be optimistic about the platforms for poetry:  stage, video, multimedia, e-book, et cetera.  In terms of performance, I believe that we are seeing less "Poet Voice" in readings.  It seems academics are being shamed into learning the rudiments of delivery.  [Shrug]

     You know that parable about the frog on the hotplate that keeps adjusting to the rising temperature until it boils to death?  You know how you're unaware that your house smells until you return from vacation?

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #10
     Recently, I took an eighteen month hiatus from live poetry.  When I returned to slam I assumed, based on how little had changed in the previous two decades, that I would be subjected to the usual diary entries and diatribes delivered with an auctioneer's pace and jet engine's volume.  The focus was still bellybuttons and politics but the tone had morphed from strident to coaxing. 

     This was too good to be true so I discounted it as an aberration.  Days later, though, I attended a youth slam where, much to my surprise, I encountered the same sea change² in approach.  Slammers were talking like intimates, not whingers or demagogues, to audience members, not at them.

     I reported this to some of my online buddies and was convinced that this phenomenon may not be as localized as I thought.  Have you experienced a similar shift from screaming to speaking or are your open mics and slams the same as always?

     Is emo dead?


¹ - ...including that rarest of animals, the actual free verser.  I'm not so sanguine about our current crop of prose poets, though.

² - I also noticed a profound demographic switch that we'll discuss in my next post.  Stay tuned!

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Earl Gray, Esquirrel

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