Monday, April 4, 2011

April is National Poetry Month

One of the great losses of the 20th century, in my view, is the decline and interest in poetry.  In the 19th century, many famous writers wrote poetry at least until the novel and the short story became popular. That trend continued in the 20th century and rules our lives today as well.

One reason for this is probably that poetry is harder to understand and takes longer to absorb and we don't have the time for this.  I know that in college I struggled all through my poetry analysis classes to really understand Shakespeare sonnets and modern poets.  I thought there was something wrong with me, but I know now that it wasn't me, at least not entirely.

It's the nature of our lives.  The reason movies and computer games are more popular than novels is that it takes less effort to appreciate.  They are immediate.  Novels (reading) takes effort.  If you make that investment, you want a payoff for your time.  A novel of genre fiction can do that more easily than a poem with deep and hidden meaning because the novel is more immediate.  You read it, you understand it, and you are done.  No deep thought, no deep meaning.

Of course, this is a misconception.  Many poems are easy to understand and have no deep meaning.  My poems, for example, generally don't have a deep meaning (or at least I'm not aware of any).  And poetry can be classified by the same genres that fiction is.  I think many people associate poetry with literature which they avoid.  That does a disservice to poetry because a poem can take many forms.  All you need is some imagery, maybe a metaphor or simile and you are well on your way.

So let's get out there and write some poetry.  Experiment!  Take some risks with it.  See what happens. With luck, we can spark a poetry renaissance and kindle an new appreciation for the art form. 

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