In 2003, Newsweek released an article titled “Poetry Is Dead. Does Anybody Really Care?” The article, as you might guess, asserts the position of poetry as an irrelevant artform in today’s day and age. The author claims that poetry simply cannot survive in our culture of notoriously short attention spans and internet access. I choose to disagree.
Poetry is not dead. Sure, it may be injured. It may have suffered a serious heart attack, but it is certainly not dead. People think poetry is dead because it is taught as if it is. I recall lessons in secondary school in which we read poems exclusively to point out alliteration and rhyme scheme. The lessons were dry, the students were bored, and so any potential interest in poetry flickered out at a relatively young age. Poetry is taught as an archaic, inaccessible artform, and so for many, it becomes one.
However, despite this, and despite the fact that we live in a world in which poetry is supposedly irrelevant, wonderful things are going on in the literary world. The talent and diversity I’ve come across in contemporary poetry is astonishing. I’ve found some particularly impressive work on the internet. In fact, without the internet, I wouldn’t be aware of nearly as many talented poets as I am. Ariana Reines is on tumblr. Eileen Myles blogs on her website.
The author of the article in Newsweek claims, “By the ’90s, it [poetry] was all over. If you doubt this statement, consider that poetry is the only art form where the number of people creating it is far greater than the number of people appreciating it.” Is this what qualifies an art as being “dead?” Of course, this fact is problematic when it comes to poets making any sort of income from their craft, gaining recognition, and so on. But think of it this way- how incredible is it that so many people are writing poetry, despite any demand for it? That people across the world are still pouring their souls out onto the page, well aware of the fact that they will never gain any recognition? This, if anything, proves that poetry is still alive.
Of course, I admit that poetry is not as widely read as it once was. Many people go their whole lives without voluntarily picking up a book of poetry. But I believe poetry can be revived. Am I overly optimistic? Absolutely. But change cannot occur without an unfaltering optimism.
I want you to fall in love with poetry. I want you to find pleasure in reading poetry. I want you to disregard what you’ve been taught about it in grade school. Do more than disregard it; obliterate it. Poetry isn’t dead, but it has suffered a heart attack. It is up to us to jumpstart it.