Lyric poetry remains useless.
I know that's not the most popular sentiment I've expressed.
Indeed, many of the folks who I've reviewed here on the blog disagree with me, more or less vehemently.
I submit, though, that their greatest poems are the ones that tell stories. Go back, read some Yezzi & Essbaum--tell me which poems strike you and you'll see the story.
I am persuaded to generalize the above statement:
The lyric mode is useless.
I say this because the point of the lyric mode is incapable of providing the breadth of experience necessary to continue to validate our artistic medium.
In other words, everyone is painting portraits and no one is painting the Sistine Chapel.
Okay, that's not entirely true--as my reviews point out. It is to some extent though. David Mason uses the techniques of Sistine Chapel painting to give us a really big portrait & Campbell McGrath paints on a large scale but uses an unrefined hand. I know there are others--though my readers have been lax of late in offering new narratives up to me--and certainly none of them are taking the literate world by storm.
That's the hell of it, isn't it?
It's the question I've been asking for the better part of a decade and the only answer I can come up with is that there is little-to-no interaction between the layman audience and the poet.
This is not true of performance poets. The problem is that performance and content are so inextricable that they poet may never be able to suss out what was good from what was bad--only to change one or the other and judge the reception.
Now, generally the reaction between the layman audience and the novelist is limited to sales--but sales of poetry books are so few and far between that this is difficult to judge (at best). And when a book of poetry sells to laymen it often does because it is either a curiosity or by someone "famous" (like Jewel & Tupac's books--or, in the case of Cobain's journals--both).
So until books of poetry start to sell we won't know what the audience wants and we won't know what the audience wants until books of poetry start to sell.
Well at least now we know what's happened since elitism overtook poetry (and patrons stopped being people and started being corporations).
So how do we look at what an audience wants?
I think I've pretty exhaustively gone over the notion that the reading audience wants stories. If you still doubt that, I'm not sure I can convince you know. Look me up at AWP in April and we'll talk about it. So we have looked at the present and we know its answer.
So how do we look forward to producing such work? For that we have to look about eight centuries backward--and look to a different post.