|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #43|
The short answer is "No."
As the ratings of HBO's "Def Jam Poetry" demonstrate, neither poetry nor its performance is ready for prime time, literally or figuratively. With coaching and practice, though, that can be fixed, along with the public's indifference. A far more serious hurdle is the fact that few in the poetry world want it to succeed. The good news? These individuals can be easily identified by the bizarre spin they give to success, starting with the terms "commercialization" and "commodification":
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #93|
You're probably thinking: "When did unmodulated screaming into a microphone² become an 'aesthetic'? When will people understand that an aesthetic entails what others like? 'Diminished the value'? Can we even imagine what we see in slams or, for that matter, most poetry 'zines being worse? Where is the value in writing that depreciates with exposure?"
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #43|
Neverthless, it is safe to say that 10,000 (60,000+ today, adjusting for population growth, even without accounting for the spread of English) people purchasing copies of Lord Byron's "The Corsair" on its date of publication would make it an unqualified success (for itself and, in light of many other examples, poetry in general), especially compared to any poem in the last half century. In 1814 Byron turned down an offer of 1,000 (a little more than $100,000 today) guineas for the rights to "Bride of Abydos".
|Julie R. Enszer|
Today, we have a much more democratic and accurate measure of poetry's individual or collective value: the search engine. It records something more important that sales or readership; it reveals poetry's impact. Put your favorite contemporary poem's title and some phrases into Google and see for yourself that Nobody Reads Poetry. Among the world's 2,000,000,000 English speakers, anything less than 6 digits (0.005%) is insignificant.
|Earl the Squirrel's Rule #85|
We can hope that the sour grapes attitude toward commercialization will be strictly a 20th century phenomenon. Make no mistake: It was commercialism that brought and preserved everything from "Hamlet" to "Songs of a Sourdough". On balance, it was a good thing. With the Internet's webzines, YouTube and social media, though, it may also be an obsolete thing.
¹ - Of course, there is no "intense commercialization" of slam.
1. to make commercial in character, methods, or spirit.
2. to emphasize the profitable aspects of, especially at the expense of quality: to commercialize one's artistic talent.
3. to offer for sale; make available as a commodity.
1. to turn into a commodity; make commercial.
1. an article of trade or commerce, especially a product as distinguished from a service.
2. something of use, advantage, or value.
3. [Stock Exchange.] any unprocessed or partially processed good, as grain, fruits, and vegetables, or precious metals.
Let me get this straight: these people don't want poetry to be profitable or "of use...or value", yet they don't want that value to be "diminished". Really?
² - Marc Smith is the polar opposite of every slammer who came after him. Believe it or not, he may be the most genuine and understated poetry performer outside of theater. The problem is his dull, prosey material. I challenge anyone to listen to "Small Boy" or "My Father's Coat" without wanting to cut in with "Excuse me, but why are you telling me this stuff?"
³ - It is physically painful to type out notions this foolish. At the very least, let us acknowledge the gross disparity in exposure afforded these two men and the infinitely more skilled women.
1. Nobody Reads Poetry
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