Comments: The End of Poetry

It's late, so forgive if this is a ramble. I'll try to keep it short.

I don't like much modern poetry, but since I do seek it out - and I have friends who are poets - I am aware of some great great stuff that is still being produced. Carl Dennis, Suzanne Wise ... I LOVE these people. Mary Oliver.

But ... it seems that the audience has changed. Specifically - there is no more audience for poetry. It is not studied, at least not in any serious way. There is no longer any attention paid to them at all - so even if we think some of Allan Ginsberg's later work was stupid and self-serving - at least SOMEbody was paying attention to him!! If a poet behaved like Ginsberg today, I am not sure anybody would even notice, or care - because there is not even an awareness of poets, on any cultural level.

People have a hard time even hearing poetry now. I mean that quite literally. My parents knew poems by heart, my grandmother, my great-aunts all learned poetry, were made to recite poems. It was part of going to school. I grew up having poems read to me - Yeats, Longfellow, etc. You need to have your ear trained, you need to have your mind and your patience trained, in order to comprehend poetry, in order to learn how to "hear" it. It's a different skill than listening to other things. I also grew up with television and movies, but that did not lessen my enjoyment of reading or the printed/spoken word.

There is good poetry going on now - although not at the level of a Milton, or a Yeats. But perhaps Milton and Yeats(and others) could flourish, or flourished so well, because there was a ready audience there, people waiting to hear what they would have to say? Mary Oliver's poems strike me as very important, very essential to any understanding of a collective unconscious - some of Carl Dennis' poems, too - strike me in that visceral gut-level way.

But ... who besides poetry-lovers care?

It makes me sad.

When I have kids, I will DEFINITELY read them the poems I had read to me when I was little.

Posted by red at January 14, 2004 02:08 AM

So much for trying to keep it short.

Forgive.

Posted by red at January 14, 2004 02:09 AM

Hi Sheila,

I very much agree with your thoughts -- the serious audience for poetry in this day and age must be incredibly small; and like classical music, those who enjoy it are generally older than most. It is not an agreeable thought; although perhaps a good marketing campaign might help poets out!

I don't know when this change in society came about; but I do think it is noteworthy that in my English classes at college, the idea of poetry was never really integrated into the general curriculum. The poetry I did read was part of my history and Latin coursework, and I discovered other poets (e.g. Burns) on my own. It is very troubling now that I think of it.

True, I could have taken a straight poetry course if I had wished; but I was busy working on improving my prose, and concentrated instead on prose courses. I am not sorry that I did that, but I do wonder what I have missed in doing so.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at January 14, 2004 08:07 PM

Interesting to read your reflections on the decline of modern poetry the same day I read Charles Austin's thoughts (http://sinequanon.spleenville.com/archives/005740.php) on the decline of the visual arts. The common thread seems to be a lack of intellectual discipline that leads to the celebration of mediocrity in the absence of genuine creativity. It's all about artist self-esteem. I blame the beatniks, personally.

Posted by Kerry at January 20, 2004 03:12 PM

Interesting to read your reflections on the decline of modern poetry the same day I read Charles Austin's thoughts (http://sinequanon.spleenville.com/archives/005740.php) on the decline of the visual arts. The common thread seems to be a lack of intellectual discipline that leads to the celebration of mediocrity in the absence of genuine creativity. It's all about artist self-esteem. I blame the beatniks, personally.

Posted by Kerry at January 20, 2004 03:12 PM

Interesting to read your reflections on the decline of modern poetry the same day I read Charles Austin's thoughts (http://sinequanon.spleenville.com/archives/005740.php) on the decline of the visual arts. The common thread seems to be a lack of intellectual discipline that leads to the celebration of mediocrity in the absence of genuine creativity. It's all about artist self-esteem. I blame the beatniks, personally.

Posted by Kerry at January 20, 2004 03:12 PM

Interesting to read your reflections on the decline of modern poetry the same day I read Charles Austin's thoughts (http://sinequanon.spleenville.com/archives/005740.php) on the decline of the visual arts. The common thread seems to be a lack of intellectual discipline that leads to the celebration of mediocrity in the absence of genuine creativity. It's all about artist self-esteem. I blame the beatniks, personally.

Posted by Kerry at January 20, 2004 03:13 PM

I apologize for the multiple posts.

Posted by Kerry at January 20, 2004 03:15 PM

I apologize for the multiple posts.

Posted by Kerry at January 20, 2004 03:15 PM