Thursday, February 14, 2008

On Narrative Verse and no Poetry Love

So I was talking with an intelligent fellow yesterday about ye olde blogg.

He asked whether I believed that lyric poetry was a hindrance to the wider readership of poetry or there was something else there.

I answered both -- first of all, people love stories. Secondly, they love being able to actually read and understand what is written, unlike much of what passes for poetry these days. Now, I have some proof of this, as black urban poetry (also known as spoken word) has a hell of a following, at least from where I'm sitting. This is due to a) the nature of BU poetry to involve a lot of storytelling and b) its general nature to eschew, if not disdain, the academic.

These poets write for and understand their audience and continually seek to both broaden their audience and their audience's mind -- all for profit, mind you. When I try to suggest to other (white, academic poets, generally) that we should do the same thing, I get the cold shoulder?


My pal's position, as is the position of other, more feared and famous writers is that since "the public" doesn't give a shit about poetry, we shouldn't give a shit about them. J-dog likened my desire for wider poetic readership to the misguided faith in Nader, Paul, et al -- the "untapped masses" aren't going to be tapped because they don't want to be.

But I am NOT talking about the untapped masses. I am well aware that there are 100 million Ammurikans who don't read. I don't care much about them. I do care, however, about the 100 million Ammurikans (on the other end of the triad) that read more than 5 books a year. It's not that these people don't like poetry.

It's that they feel that they don't "get poetry." There are a lot of reasons for this but the main one is that, unquestionably, the great majority of


It's either a) impossible to read (see the above poets I linked to) or b) completely soulless. Even when it is fantastic, it's often only fantastic to those with English degrees. So when Mr. or Ms. 33&1/3% of Ammurika picks up a poetry book or sees a poem in the New Yorker/Nation/National Review he or she thinks "well, this shit still stinks to high heaven, thank Gott I've got stories to turn to."

I have already said that I find lyric poetry irrevocably broken at this point. We can fix it later, once more than 1% of the country is actually reading poetry again.

So yes, Justin -- to answer the question, I think that there are lots of problems with American/English Language poetry. I think that the fix is to write clear, excellent verse about something the average reader can understand (note, I did not say the average person -- the average reader is a bit more bright).

I think that this can most easily be done through narrative verse.

Get writing!

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