Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Blustery Post...

Sometimes, I'm frustrated with poetry. Sometimes, I think that everything that I read from current poetry publications sounds essentially the same, as though fourteen different people decided to write the same poem, varying the words and syntax structures only slightly. Maybe I'm being too cynical, and more than probably I'm just biased, but that's just how it seems sometimes. Am I alone, here?

More of my bias, for what's it's worth:

I'm tired of reading the angsty, cryptic, post-modern arrangements of sentences that pass for poetry these days. It's just become so passe, really, and much, much too reliant on the shock factor. Maybe it used to be cool to be vulgar for vulgar's sake (you're "a fucking poet," after all); maybe you think that acting like an asshole is redemptive when it's construed as "literary"; maybe you're a nihilist, with nothing in particular to say at all, and that's the whole point of your work. But the really great poets became poets because they had (and have) a whole heck of a lot of important stuff to say and didn't (and don't) have to resort to cheap syntactical tricks or talking about taking a dump in somebody's backyard to say it.


Now, it is not my intention to say that any one writing style is fundamentally better than any other style. But it is my intention to say: write with some conviction, people! Write because what you have to say will make the world a better place to live. Be crazy and uncoventional and deviant if that is what it takes to revolutionize your world. But don't simply insert Meghan Fox into your poem, because it sounds "edgy." Don't try to simulate "the madman" in your poetry, either; unless you truly feel as if you're "going mad," your production will be simply that-- a production. "Going mad," in the literary sense, entails having a message to convey which nobody is willing to hear. Why do you suppose most poets, now affectionately labeled "madmen," are poets who are deceased?  Their message was supremely unpopular at the time of their writing. They were not well-recieved when they were writing, because they were ahead of their time. We only attribute a nostalgic quality to literary madness, because we are perhaps grasping at their thread of thought, their vision of Utopia.

Too many so-called poets today are more enamored with "being a poet" than saying anything revolutionary or describing a brave, new world. They may get published regularly in contemporary literary journals, but what are they actually saying? I don't know. And if I don't know, chances are a whole lot of other poetry enthusiastes don't know, either.


  1. Thank you for writing this. If only more writers and poets today had enough integrity and sense to make these realizations, the literary world would be much less bland than it is now.

  2. I agree with you on this. After you spend so much time finishing up an English degree, with all the ENDLESS Reading, you start to get annoyed with the repetitive nature of the thing, especially when you get into post-modern. The shock factor had its moment - all shocking things have been said. The angst factor has been re-used so many times I do not feel sympathy any longer. Perhaps writers will come full-circle, back to what is masterfully-designed simplicity. Truth.

  3. People have been tired of the angst since Keats, and they have been tired of the vulgar since Thomas. The literary journals only care if you have your masters in telling the difference. I think when you write poetry your going to write every side. What really drives me mad is slam poetry. When did performance art become poetry?

  4. I'm glad this post resonated a bit. :) I guess I just think it's becoming less about what anybody actually has to say and more about the presentation. Presentation is great--but it should never trump content. Stone, I totally agree about slam poetry!

    Lauren and Diego, I hear ya! I don't have a problem if a poet needs to express negative emotions artistically; I don't mind a sad, angry, or rebellious poem, but I do want to get the sense that the author finds the poem and his participation in the creation of the poem a redemptive form of art.



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