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Gaoics79
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Some of the latest threads got me to thinking: is poetry dead? Every artistic medium I know of, from paintings to music to literature have current, vibrant, and popular manifestations. While the novel may have competition from internet, videogames and television, most people do read them from time to time; there remains popular literature, from the latest John Grisham thriller to Rarlequin romance novels. Similarly, pop music continues to enrapture people, in all its forms. Even paintings are popular, when you consider the fact that almost everyone decorates their homes with them, and if you count posters as types of paintings, the art is more popular than ever.

But what about poetry? Can you remember the last time you sat down and read a poem outside of an english class in university or high school? Can you even name a poem that was written in the past 10 years?

My experience has been that everyone seems to experience poetry as something they like as an idea, but never in practice. It's rather like the Montreal Jazz festival; everyone is so proud that it exists and will boast about it to no end, but no one ever seems to actually attend the thing.

Some people, like my mother, even wrote poems when they were younger, but actually read them here and now? Almost never. Personally, I can name exactly two poems I have ever read in my life that had the slightest emotional effect on me: Henry King's the Exequy, and on my First Son by Ben Johnson. That's it. And I'm an English major who has read hundreds of the things.

Is poetry a near-dead art, kept on life support by the inertia of our culture? If it weren't taught in high schools and universities, would anyone even know what a poem was?

Another question: is this total failure of poetry as a medium inherent to it, or is it due to some other cause? For example, does the focus on "analysis" of poetry (rather than actual appreciation) effectively kill it in the hearts of high schoolers? I believe someone said that analysis was the intellect's revenge against art... could high school "analysis" be partly responsible for the death of this art form? Or has poetry been effectively annexed by music, which arguably counts as a form of poetry.

So how about it? Do people agree with my assessment? Has anyone ever truly enjoyed a poem for real? By the way, here's my favourite poem:

quote:
Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy ;
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov'd boy.
Seven years thou wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
Oh, could I lose all father now ! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon 'scaped world's and flesh's rage,
And if no other misery, yet age !
Rest in soft peace, and, asked, say, Here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry.
For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such
As what he loves may never like too much.


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LoverOfJoy
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You find poetry in the lyrics of the music we listen to. You also find them in children's books.

Also, many people who learn to write poetry in high school keep writing poetry in diaries for the rest of their lives. My wife finds writing poetry therapeutic. It helps her work through hard situations by putting the emotions in a metaphorical poetic form.

It's just that poetry alone doesn't make much money anymore.

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Zyne
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I read a poem today, that my coworker had written and shown me the text of.
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0Megabyte
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I heard a song lately that would actually work well as stand alone poetry.

That's a rare thing, I think. Too many "yeah yeah yeah's" and so forth in most songs. Ugh.

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TommySama
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Yes, poetry is dead.

And I killed it with my awesome Essay to Pass the Time.

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philnotfil
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I think you got the two major reasons why poetry is dead.

It is so easy (and so socially acceptable) to put it to music, and the way we teach it in school really does kill it for most people.

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vulture
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I love a great many poems jasonr, and the last time I read one was ... yesterday. Maybe I'm atypical though. Although I do know plenty of people who read poems on a fairly frequent basis.

Some poets whom I adore: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robort Browning, Tennyson, Basho, Buson, Issa, Seamus Heaney (still alive and writing BTW).

The problem is that good poetry is very hard to write. And poetry is in fact pretty hard to read, in comparison to novels (and for people bought up on TV). You actually have to pay close attention to every word to even have a clue what is going on, otherwise it just becomes a series of disjointed images whose purpse is almost entirely obscure. Peoms that are both easy to read and beautiful are incredibly rare (although I always think of "Ozymandias of Egypt" as a good example).

[ October 10, 2006, 09:02 AM: Message edited by: vulture ]

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KnightEnder
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I agree that music is the culprit.

And I agree that poetry is hard to write. I tried to write Stacy a poem once and I had no idea how hard it was until then.

I like poetry, but it's kinda like art; some of the stuff that is supposed to be great I just don't get. But I know what I like. Like the Edgar Allen Poe poem I quoted on Tommy's thread.

Ever hear Ellen DeGeneres do Salt n Peppa's "Shoop"? Hilarious poetry. [Big Grin] [LOL] [LOL]

KE

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Lisa M.
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I like poetry, but it's hard to read for me because there's just so much crap out there to wade through.
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Gaoics79
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I took a shot at writing poetry when I was about 16. It was the most self-indulgent crap I ever laid my eyes on. Even back then I knew it for what it was, which is why I never bothered again. Unfortunately, unlike, say, cooking, I just don't see how you can improve on poetry. How does one write a good poem? Is there a method? Instructions to follow? Like humour, no one can explain the how of it; it either is or it isn't.

This may explain partly why poetry has not been successful as a medium. People want a sense of accomplishment, a sense that they're getting better at something. A musician can practice the technical skill of music to become a better musician. A painter can practice the technical skill of painting to become a better painter. But what is the technical skill of poetry? Does anyone even know? I read poems, and I can't even tell you why a great poem is great and a bad poem is bad. Even by the standards of art, it is such a subjective medium, which is what makes it so frustrating.

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Cytania
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Poetry is certainly a sad emaciated remnant of what it was a hundred years ago. For the Edwardians a 'party piece' poem was something to be admired, things like 'On The Deck Of The Hesperus' were learnt by heart and sounded pretty good delivered with enthusiastic amateurism.

In the days before radio and TV having members of the family able to play piano, sing, make monologues (Gettysburg Address anyone?) was an asset. Now sadly few of us would be able to put on any kind of show even to friends, which reminds me I've Travis picking to practise [DOH]

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Colin JM0397
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I don't recall seeing anything modern that caught my fancy...
I'd write more if it wasn't dooming me to be a starving artist.
quote:
Fear death?—to feel the fog in my throat,
The mist in my face,
When the snows begin, and the blasts denote
I am nearing the place,
The power of the night, the press of the storm,
The post of the foe;
Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,
Yet the strong man must go:
For the journey is done and the summit attained,
And the barriers fall,
Though a battle's to fight ere the guerdon be gained,
The reward of it all.
I was ever a fighter, so—one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes and forbore,
And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers
The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears
Of pain, darkness and cold.
For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,
The black minute's at end,
And the elements' rage, the fiend-voices that rave,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain,
Then a light, then thy breast,
O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
And with God be the rest!

Prospice, Robert Browning

[ October 10, 2006, 11:20 AM: Message edited by: jm0397 ]

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kenmeer livermaile
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capital P poetry? the self-omportant institution of small publishers and English profs?

or just plain poetry, period?

is it not poetry if it's sung? or rapped? or spread from one author to many?

poetry is alive and well, but it ain't what it was 100 years ago.

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Gaoics79
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quote:
is it not poetry if it's sung? or rapped? or spread from one author to many?
Well that's what I was referring to when I said that it had effectively been annexed by music. Musical lyrics are poems, that's true. But independant of music, I just can't see any popular manifestation of this formerly illustrious art, or for that matter, any real manifestation of it outside of academia.
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kenmeer livermaile
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lots of poetry 'hollers' in local cafs. it justcdoiesn't haVE A MEDIA BROADCAST PRESENCE. DOESN'T FIT. caps oop[s
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TomDavidson
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I'm a published poet, so the idea that no one's written anything worth reading in the last ten years makes me cry. *sniffle*

I've often thought that I should have learned how to play lead guitar first, so that -- like Jim Morrison, Jewel, and Art Garfunkel -- I could be called a brilliant poet as a direct consequence of my middling song lyrics. My approach -- to become recognized as a brilliant guitarist by writing passable poetry -- has not been as successful.

I would argue that what has killed poetry is the existence of portable music.

[ October 10, 2006, 12:44 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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kenmeer livermaile
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portable music is nulling: bird song, traffgic noise, wind in the willows. ambience in general is being replaced by importable stimuli.

morrison had his moments. some of THE LORDS and THE NEW CREATURES is just swell:

dull lions prone on a watery beach.
the universe kneels at the swamp
to curiously eye its own raw
postures of decay
in the mirror of human consciousness.

+++

turn mirror to the wall
in the house of the new dead.

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Colin JM0397
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quote:
if you don't believe drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor. Go home tonight. Take all your albums, all your tapes and all your CDs and burn them. 'Cause you know what, the musicians that made all that great music that's enhanced your lives throughout the years … rrreal f***ing high on drugs. The Beatles were so f***ing high they let Ringo sing a few tunes.
-Bill Hicks

Oh, and I just couldn't pass this one up:
quote:
They lie about marijuana. Tell you pot-smoking makes you unmotivated. Lie! When you're high, you can do everything you normally do just as well … you just realize that it's not worth the f***ing effort. There is a difference.
Now that's poetry!
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DonaldD
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quote:
I've often thought that I should have learned how to play lead guitar first, so that -- like Jim Morrison, Jewel, and Art Garfunkel -- I could be called a brilliant poet as a direct consequence of my middling song lyrics. My approach -- to become recognized as a brilliant guitarist by writing passable poetry -- has not been as successful.

Truly brilliant, on so many different levels. I'm crying with envy for not having written anything nearly as poignantly funny.
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canadian
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I'd love to give you a few examples of great poetry being written today, but I'm not certain enough of copyright issues to put someone else's work on the internet.

Suffice to say, there's some great stuff out there.

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canadian
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Here's a good one:


For Anne

With Annie gone,
Whose eyes to compare
With the morning sun?

Not that I did compare,
But I do compare
Now that she's gone.

-Leonard Cohen

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philnotfil
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More Leonard Cohen (who had to pick up the guitar to really get his poetry known)

Coming Back to You


Maybe I'm still hurting
I can't turn the other cheek
But you know that I still love you
It's just that I can't speak
I looked for you in everyone
And they called me on that too
I lived alone but I was only
Coming back to you

Ah they're shutting down the factory now
Just when all the bills are due
And the fields they're under lock and key
Tho' the rain and the sun come through
And springtime starts but then it stops
In the name of something new
And all the senses rise against this
Coming back to you

And they're handing down my sentence now
And I know what I must do
Another mile of silence while I'm
Coming back to you

There are many in your life
And many still to be
Since you are a shining light
There's many that you'll see
But I have to deal with envy
When you choose the precious few
Who've left their pride on the other side of
Coming back to you

Even in your arms I know
I'll never get it right
Even when you bend to give me
Comfort in the night
I've got to have your word on this
Or none of it is true
And all I've said was just instead of
Coming back to you


Heart With No Companion


I greet you from the other side
Of sorrow and despair
With a love so vast and shattered
It will reach you everywhere

And I sing this for the captain
Whose ship has not been built
For the mother in confusion
Her cradle still unfilled

For the heart with no companion
For the soul without a king
For the prima ballerina
Who cannot dance to anything

Through the days of shame that are coming
Through the nights of wild distress
Tho' your promise count for nothing
You must keep it nonetheless

You must keep it for the captain
Whose ship has not been built
For the mother in confusion
Her cradle still unfilled

For the heart with no companion ...

I greet you from the other side ...


I'll try to stop there, but also Bird On A Wire, Everybody Knows, Who By Fire, and Dress Rehearsal Rag are favorites of mine.

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vulture
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I was going to mention Leonard Cohen as an example of a modern poet working the medium of music rather than publishing books too.

And Paris Hilton. Oh no - my mistake...

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DonaldD
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Leonard Cohen is a published poet - nine books of poetry and counting. link
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Gaoics79
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Well it looks like maybe I was wrong. Maybe poetry still has some life to it. Or maybe I've confused commercial success with true artistic vitality.
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philnotfil
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He is published, but his work didn't get much attention until after he had picked up the guitar and started singing his poetry.

He is actually one of the most translated poets and most covered singers (probably in large part due to the fact that his voice is so low that no one can song along with his songs) around.

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kenmeer livermaile
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the minnesingers and troubadors were poets too, y'know. not to mention playwrghts like Big Daddy S.

pitchers in story books are stiil pictorial art although they're surrounded by wqords.

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