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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The state of poetry, 25 years on--

I went back and reread Joseph Epstein's "Who Killed Poetry?" I wondered if it might have discouraged me from Thaliad if I had remember it better back in 2010 when I wrote the poem. I think not, as I do exactly what I want to do in the kingdom of words. (My luck: I have no merit raise to gain, no academic promotion to seek, no faux-muse to follow.) But it should have done so, no doubt, with its talk of the impossibility of the long poem in our day, and the silliness and rarification and professionalization of poets! Nevertheless, he says this:
But in taking up the lyric as its chief form, contemporary poetry has seriously delimited itself. It thereby gives away much that has always made literature an activity of primary significance; it gives away the power to tell stories, to report on how people live and have lived, to struggle for those larger truths about life the discovery of which is the final justification for reading. Thus has poetry in our day become, in the words of the intelligent young poet and critic Brad Leithauser, "a sadly peripheral art form."
He does make me glad that I abandoned teaching after five years in the trenches, and that I live a very ordinary life with a household full of children. But. He certainly showed little hope for poetry or the long poem 25 years ago: "...just now the entire enterprise of poetic creation seems threatened by having been taken out of the world, chilled in the classroom, and vastly overproduced by men and women who are licensed to write it by degree if not necessarily by talent or spirit." Would he find us in a better state now? Or would he count the increasing number of MFA programs (low residency programs abound) and laugh?


  1. Susanna here! It is a snowly-sleet filled day in old Alabam and I am at work in a deserted library thinking about poetry and passing time...I may be way off track with these random thoughts. I dont really like talking about my feelsing about this kind of stuff.

    This was an interesting post Marly...lots to mull over. My disclaimer for the ensuing quick random thoughts is that I don't have any data or industry information, Im just a girl who likes to get drunk and record my favorite sad poems and share it with my friends.

    I dont think poetry (good or bad) will ever be dead. I think its very much alive. People just can't help themselves. Maybe the long poem might dwindle becuase people don't really have the stamina for them and professional/academic poets might also be on the decline becuase its not a big money maker, but I can tell you I am surounded by private poets and rhymers. Lots and lots. Perhaps people think poetry is dead or dying becuase its often kept private...the last vestage of private. Sigh...people know its bad, they know its true, raw and real. Its like how it hurts for someone to make fun of your singing voice, if you mess up a flute solo, so what, its not inside yoy like those horrible feelings that fought their way out into bad private poetry.

    A friend sent me a poem that he wrote 10 years ago and it nearly made me fall out of my chair and I have thought back to lines from it so often. Damn, this mans poetry is so freaking good. My definition of "good" is that really affected me deeply. I was the first and only person he has shown it to and its so amazing. I imagine it will surface after he dies.

    I have been reviewing a young mans poetry and his poetry blog. ITs wild and crazy and young. Reflective of the youth of today, chaotic, searching, short bursts of feelings revolving around living in the now, less reflection. Modern poetry where people actually make money collides with song writing and the music industry. I guess there is nothing new about that but indi music that used to underground is really the Avett Brothers. I would fight somebody over arguing that some thier songs are not poetry in motion.

    This performance was in Huntsville

    Well, I guess I better get back to some library work! like my year end self evaluation which totally rocks!

  2. I got two of those songs wrong! maybe time for coffee! These two songs are really awesome!!!

  3. Love to you Susanna! Shall look later--just home in the snow from a lovely Boxing Day party. Merry 2nd day of Christmas! xo Marly


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.