It would appear poetry isn’t dead after all.
Those of you who are poets probably already know what I mean by this. It might be worse in Kentucky than other parts of the United States, and I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but I feel like I’m surrounded by a press of people who either don’t understand poetry, hate poetry, or simply don’t want to understand it. Is it as simple as changing cultural tastes? Will poetry swing back into favor again? Or is the flaw more glaring, starting from someplace like our public education system? I really don’t know, but I feel it is somehow connected to the breakdown of people’s ability to possess analytical thought.
At first blush, logic and analysis seem like odd bedfellows for poetry, but to appreciate the deeper meaning of a poem, to understand scansion and allusion and formalist imagery, a problem-solving mind can apply itself to a work. Many people would consider poetry to be so ethereal and high brow (they might not use those words though) that it is simply unapproachable. Really, the tools I was handed in my three entry-level college English classes gave me the means to see deeper into a text, they have just been improving from there. I wish I could say high school had done more of this, but it only brushed the surface faintly, and I took advanced English classes in high school.
Any work of fiction generally has a deeper level you can read it on; perhaps people find poetry intimidating because 1.) poetry always has this quality, and 2.) it does not have as much “surface” quality. A 9 year old kid can potentially enjoy reading “The Raven” because it tells a story at the basic narrative level, but if you hand that same kid a work by e.e. cummings they will be boggled. Now, take out the words “9 year old kid” and replace it with “average person.” No, I’m not saying our nation’s intellect is that low, I’m saying that when it comes to poetry specifically they seem to react that way, like a deer in the headlights.
I don’t know how to turn this around, how to get people to understand the deeper levels of imagery within words, how to get them to care. I’d like to say to anyone reading this, though, that I appreciate finding other people on this blog that enjoy poetry, whether reading it or writing it. So many people in my everyday life, even well-read and educated people, seem to hold poetry at arm’s length if not further.
And now, just so I don’t disappoint the folks who search by keyword (no, I’ll still disappoint them ^_~), a poem:
There once was a man from Kentucky,
who wasn’t incredibly lucky
he wrote lots of poems
but no one would know ’em
which is more than a little bit sucky.