A fellow blogger shared William Logan’s New York Times’ article entitled “Poetry: Who Needs It?” and he presented some very fascinating thoughts (please click the link below if you want to read it). Mr. Logan is right, poetry should be taught more in schools and I totally agree with him when it comes to that. He also said that we have lost our ability to listen to language and that poetry will never become popular … these are very intriguing ideas … and I was waiting for him to discuss the big “But” in his article and unfortunately it never came.
Mr. Logan started out his discussion with the pessimistic idea that we live in a world of dull prose which has tragically affected our ability to listen to language. Hmmm … I wonder what is his basis for saying this? And how does he exactly know that we have lost our sensitivity to language? What language is he referring to anyway? Because language itself is a tricky matter — it evolves and subverts. And who’s to say that these subversions are not in the long run good for the evolution of language and poetry?
Language, as we all know, is the medium of poetry. Poets themselves have the freedom to mold language, bend it and change it to reflect their creative purpose. Not all people approve of the way some poets have shaped their language, but hey, not everyone who loved Neruda’s “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines” will necessarily love Eliot’s “The Wasteland.” It’s a matter of preference — and so at the end of the day, how can we be certain that we are surrounded by dull prose? What could be insipid writing for me may turn out to be brilliant prose or poetry for you.
What really bothered me about the article though was the very dismal way it ended. In a nutshell, Mr. Logan is saying that poetry will never be generally accepted, and this art will forever remain confined within the circle of a few people. Here is what he wrote:
“You can live a full life without knowing a scrap of poetry, just as you can live a full life without ever seeing a Picasso or “The Cherry Orchard.” Most people surround themselves with art of some sort, whether it’s by Amy Winehouse or Richard Avedon. Even the daubs on the refrigerator by the toddler artist have their place. Language gainfully employed has its place. Poetry will never have the audience of “Game of Thrones” — that is what television can do. Poetry is what language alone can do.”
When he said this, what poetry was he referring to? The poetry tethered to the pages of books? The poetry that are accepted by the literary canon (the canon itself is pretty much controversial and problematic)? I don’t think his idea is quite accurate. Poetry is alive! It’s moving, it’s breathing and it’s changing together with language and the people using this language. It is in mainstream — people are speaking poetry nowadays. What of rap music? Isn’t that poetry? When Eminem came out with “8 Mile” that was pure genius. I wasn’t the only one blown away, people around the world listened to him and appreciated the poetry in his rap. No, don’t tell me rap isn’t poetry, because that is still highly debatable. How is spoken word poetry so different from rap? I rest my case.
Let me give you another example of how poetry is not confined to small groups. In fact, poetry is out there in the World Wide Web. You have Facebook poetry pages and you also have countless bloggers around the world writing poetry. I’m amazed at how some of them are boldly experimenting with the poetic form itself, and I think that’s good, because poetry needs that in order to grow and keep on becoming relevant in our lives. Most of these poetry bloggers have a lot of followers and people are commenting on their works, which means people — ordinary people — are reading them. People are giving meaning and recognizing the poetic works of these bloggers. Why? Because these online poets actually speak their language — and isn’t this what art is all about? Isn’t art a reflection of life — of ordinary people’s lives? Now that’s what I love about online writing, it has destroyed boundaries and it has crippled the academic hegemon. Before online writing came about, the power to decide if a work is good or not did not come from ordinary readers but from the critics, from the people in the academe — and now poetic blogging has destroyed that. Critics and their opinions are not that important anymore unless you move in their confined circle. But who would want to do that? Why limit yourself to them when you have the entire Web as your audience? Oh they would so hate me for saying this, but that’s the truth and that’s the reality now.
Poetry is alive and people are reading it and speaking it. It may not come in the form that some of us attribute to poetry, but that’s okay, because as long as people are using language, then language would continue to grow and change, which means poetry would evolve and change as well. So go ahead people and celebrate this art — read it, speak it and blog it.
Link to Mr. Logan’s article:
Poetry: Who Needs It? (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/sunday-review/poetry-who-needs-it.html?_r=2&referrer=)