- Mass Media: Poetry has virtually disappeared from newspapers, television, non-literary publications, etc.
- Diversification: With so many different literary outlets the chances of any two or more readers in a discussion encountering the same poem are slim.
- Aesthetics: In the past, people argued about whether a poem was good or bad. Now they argue about whether or not it is a poem in the first place.
- Education: What percentage of poets know the basics, starting with scansion? 5%? 10%? 15%, maybe? That is out of the 1% of people who consider themselves poets. How do you sell something when only .0015 of the population understands what it is and how it works? Where are the "great audiences" of which Whitman spoke?
- Generational Narcissism: People today show no interest in the past or, for that matter, the future.
- Bundling: Poets try to sell books rather than poems. It is like, having failed to sell a cow to a vegetarian, we try to sell him a herd instead.
- Market Research: Non-existent. Indeed, the whole notion of asking the public what they would like to see in a contemporary poem is foreign to our thinking.
- Communication: The only two venues at which geeks (concerned with quality) and honchos (concerned with quantity) used to meet have been closed. One side will go on touting the likes of Maz while the other gives us the Flavor of the Month.
- Popularity: It is one thing to be part of a canon when your contemporaries appreciated poetry, quite another to survive an era when no one is being broadly discussed, performed or quoted.
- Motivation: When was the last time you heard anyone say anything about repopularizing poetry?
A great squirrel once said: "If poetry is not for everyone it will be for no one."
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #65|
We lost meter in the 1950s, plotting in the '60s, sonics in the '70s, rhythm in the '80s, coherence in the '90s and now our grammar is fading fast. Other than that, yes, Ms. Hirshfield, "Poetry is just fine."
In this era of instant gratification the "good" news is that we don't have to wait a century to be ignored. Wholly and collectively. The future is now! Indeed, we don't even have a populist like Bukowski. How can we have a Shakespeare when we can't even produce a Thomas Tusser?¹
As you can see, the situation is grim, made all the more so by the all-too-common tendency to ignore the facts. Nevertheless, all of this goes away if we can find one competent² storyteller.
¹ - "Bestselling poet in England between 1560 and 1640 (the era of Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, Donne, Herbert, and the early Milton, to name just a few) -- Thomas Tusser (he outsold most of those poets even when you take all their works sold during that period combined).
"Bestselling English poet between 1890 and 1914 (era of Housman, late Tennyson and Browning, Hardy, and numerous others of note) -- Norman Rowland Gale."
- Howard Miller (Gazebo, 2007-03-19)
² - "Competent" includes the ability to tell stories in either mode: prose or poetry.
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.