Whether it was while pouring over volumes of contemporary poetry over break or when I actually enjoyed a piece of Stephen Burt’s literary criticism, I think I have gone off the deep end into academia.
Despite everything going on at OWU and in the country at large, I have found myself completely overwhelmed with the state of poetry in America.
In a country that used to laude its great poets, we are now in a generation without Robert Frosts or Adrienne Richs to captivate our nation.
Or at least we don’t see any on athe horizon.
I realize this might not seem like a pressing issue when compared to the new fountain on campus or the race for the GOP nomination, but I, as a self-titled “academic,” am frustrated with the state of the contemporary American poetry scene.
That is not to say I don’t love what is being written now.
With rising stars in the poetry world like Jennifer Grotz and C. Dale Young, I think that the future of poetry has promise.
What I am most frustrated with, however, is that no one reads it.
In a generation where poetry exposure comes from Tumblr and Blogger, we are inundated with—I’ll say it—bad poetry.
I am probably not one to speak having written a fair share of the abstract and emotional high school poetry and posted it in random confines of the internet.
Or maybe I am just the guy.
I was searching through Tumblr a couple days ago and clicked through what was being ranked as popular poetry entries by some writers on Tumblar.
Almost every poem shamelessly spoke of unrequited love, high school relationships, the ever-present and unanchored “soul,” and how pained each and every one of these individuals felt (that clearly no one else felt as profoundly).
Needless to say, I was sickened.
Everyone does have free speech. I clearly respect that.
You would think, however, that people would have at least decent taste.
The collective Tumblr consciousness does not understand poetry, and I don’t think that our generation does either.
In high school we are taught to look for symbols in poetry—to extrapolate that a dying dove in a poem clearly represents both the loss of innocence and the broken heart of the speaker.
This poetic upbringing kills what students should look for in poetry.
Innovation maybe, or even a narrative that does not use any of the following unmentionables: love, soul, pain, regret, sorrow or hearts.
Poetry is about preserving the conscious experience of a time period.
We can read T. S. Eliot and understand the lens in which he viewed his Modern reality. We can go back to Sylvia Plath and see her unique experience of the world around her.
What is our conscious experience of our time?
Are the only poetic testaments to our epoch going to be angsty adolescent drivel?
I will admit that I have not always been very well read in poetry, or in any real literature.
And that’s not to say that I’m well read now because there is always more to read, especially in the poetry world with no clear frontrunner.
However, I have started to read more. After years of not being able to engage in books (without Harry Potter how is that even possible?), I found a passion for reading again in poetry.
The answer to poetry’s readership problem is just that—reading.
I know that from now on I plan on only giving out poetry books for gifts. (Sorry everyone, now you know what you’re getting for your birthdays.)
I think that there is the potential for a wider poetry audience.
There has been in the past, so I see no reason why it can’t be rebuilt today.
Whether you’re with or against me, I beg you to read.
I don’t mean skim your book for that paper in Modern British Literature, and I don’t even necessarily mean poetry.
Just read again.
I spent my entire winter break curled up in bed with a stack of books and a bottomless cup of pomegranate tea.
Who knew that before Hulu people read?
At least give it a try outside of the classroom.
Everyone has a book they have always been thinking about or planning on reading at some point. You can find the time.
Maybe you’ll have to give up a Wasted Wednesday, but who remembers those anyway?