Some time in 2003 I managed to get my hands on a copy of Charles Baxter’s essay, Burning Down the House and Dana Gioia’s Can Poetry Matter? I know these were written years before I undertook the efforts to read them, but better late than never, right? However, I am digressing here. These two essays got me to thinking about the state of writing, both fiction and poetry. As the years have passed I came across several articles in various independent newspapers, magazines, or internet postings that either suggested or flat out stated that poetry is dead. I even remember one poet defending poetry against a journalist that asked him about poetry being dead. The poet shot back, “Well some people say love is dead, who cares what many people think?”
According to Gioia’s essay, “American poetry now belongs to a subculture. No longer part of the mainstream of artistic intellectual life, it has become the specialized occupation of a relatively small and isolated group. Little of the frenetic activity it generates ever reaches outside that closed group. [Despite the many journals in print and more each year] … the poetry boom has been a distressingly confined phenomenon. The situation has become a paradox, a Zen riddle of cultural sociology. Over the past half century, as American poetry’s specialist audience has steadily expanded, its general readership has declined.”
Gioia went further to suggest that because of the lack of reviews given to poetry in mainstream resources that its relevance is albeit self-evident; it is basically an unimportant genre. As you all read this post keep in mind that this essay was written in 1991. So amidst a busy day, my mind began to shift to a series of philosophical queries that I wanted to pitch to others. One of them so happened to be the relevance of poetry in the 21st Century. Does poetry matter? Is it dead or alive in this century? Why or why not? This is the question I posed to a variety of emerging and/or established poets. This post will serve as a brief discussion, and hopefully initiate more extended ones, on poetry and its relevance in the 21st Century. Read & Njoy … Love&PeaceBeUn2U …
Poetry has been on a death watch for years, but it is very much alive today. Poetry is undeniably alive and a much needed and viable art form. I believe it is still alive and well because poetry gives a voice to the emotions and thoughts of those who have no voice. Poets and artist can translate things in ways thought otherwise impossible, such as love, life, and spirituality. Words expressed on paper and the stage touch a part of us that nothing else can reach and move us to love more, live more, and find more meaning in life. Poetry will live on until the end of time because those things will forever be needed as long as people are on this earth. That’s why venues stay packed all around the world, full of people looking for poetry, that’s why young and old poets form together words and paper and let them fly out of our mouths on stage. Poetry is the medicine to the world that’s forever sick will always need. These days, in this century we’ve just found easier ways to offer the doses.
Poetry in the 21 st century. A lot of people think poetry is dead, why? It’s an interesting question which I plan to answer shortly. But first, I will address the root question: Is poetry dead? My answer is a bold, no. Let’s put this into perspective. Hundreds of millions of texts, Facebook status updates, twitter messages are sent every day. From saying you’re bored, to detailing how your day went, the messages move at lightning speed. This dives into my entire philosophy of what poetry actually IS. Poetry to me, put simply, is exploration and expression of self. This was popularized by the Beat poets in the 50’s and 60’s, but also took shape in the Romantic period. So, I ask; is not the quirky story about your workday poetry? It may lack fundamental form, but I say it has potential. This is where I see poetry going in the 21 st century: It shies away from classical form and meter. It is mutating into true exploration and then instant expression in the form of electronic synapses. I see the, “The essence of Poetry” more alive than it has ever been, but without the inclusive, pretentious, academic baggage that has plagued it for so long. We live in a truly open society today, where opinions and expression can be validated or argued in mere fractions of a second. Perhaps I just have really deep Facebook friends who don’t mind philosophical banter, but I do believe that poetry, in its true form, which actually defies form, is alive and well. I see people cling to writing on their devices like their lives depend on it. In my mind, there is much more to poetry than what the classical definition, or the pretentious academics care to qualify. For example, people checking Facebook during work. I see “poetry” moving well into the next few centuries, not against, but hand in hand with technology, as it evolves. And so, I leave you with a quote written by me:
“Poetry is Dead?
Poetry is for the dead.
Poetry is to bring the dead
back to the living.”
I believe poetry will continue to keep up with technology while preserving its heritage. More voices will be heard on political subjects, and spoken poetry will continue to thrive into the 21st century.
Of course we know times are changing. In aspects such as the race war, it is changing at a slow pace. Their is no reason for us to be in this state of being hundreds of years after slavery. Hatred and discrimination is still currently happening simply because human beings can no longer be bought and sold to fill the pockets of slave owners. Other aspects are changing at a faster rate, such as romancing the opposite sex or same sex, disrespect for one another and this generation being clueless about the true history of us (just to name a few). People are doing and saying things openly that at one time was considered taboo. With all of that in mind, poetry is very much so relevant in the 21st century. Poetry is freeing the mind spiritually, consciously and romantically. Poetry gives understanding to those who don’t know. Poetry is a voice for those can relate. Poetry is comedy. Poetry is a sad song. Poetry unites people which is the most important part about it.
Poetry is fully alive because poetry is everything and it is also everywhere…As long as we are alive and this planet, even contaminated, is still going, we have a million reasons to be inspired and write poetry.
Chris Green a.k.a. The Poetic Genius-Proud Poet hails from Gloucester, Virginia. He is Head of Operations for the upstart publishing venture Poetry Pushers Ink. Also, he is maintaining The Poetic Genius, and his books include Grand Slam Flows, Lust & SINsation, and Life, Love, & Poetry.