Once upon a time, poetry was thought of as one of the most beautiful and most important art forms in existence. Nowadays it could be questioned as to whether it is as widely appreciated. If you tell someone you read or write poetry, you are just as likely to be met with a judging laugh as you are with admiration. After all, we are living in a time where Fifty Shades of Grey is a literary best seller.
The question many are starting to wonder about is whether poetry is dying. “What pretends to be poetry now is either New Age blather or vague nonsense or gibberish. It’s zombie poetry,” said playwright Gwydion Suilebhan in a tweet.
Like him, the cynics and the sceptics will say that it is dying. They are wrong. Poetry is not dying, it is merely changing. Poetry is essential to human life. It allows us to convey our thoughts and emotions through beautiful, sometimes horrible, words. We turn to poetry to express the inexpressible. Evolution is a wonderful thing and as technology has evolved, so has poetry.
I think it is the age-old tradition of an older generation begrudging the differences of the new generation. However, poetry is defined as a literary work in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm; poems collectively or as a genre of literature. To say that just because poems are no longer strictly from a poetry book means that the art from is dead could not be further from the truth.
The emergence of Instagram poets is proof that things are changing, they’re not dying off. Rudy Francisco was originally a spoken word poet who created thought-provoking poems. The American man attracted recognition and praise when he began posting his work on Instagram. The creation of this platform was like a megaphone so that he could amplify his poetry. He reached a wider audience due to this evolution while the integrity of traditional poetry remained intact.
His poem ‘Don’t Burn Bridges’ is an excellent example of this. This stanza in particular highlights the beauty that is still prevalent in modern poetry.
“I say, if necessary
let the kerosene
kiss it on the lips,
and watch it
turn to ash.”
The actual structure of poetry has also changed. Poems used to be paragraph after paragraph of ornate and metaphorical language. Sylvia Plath was one of the most admired poets of the 20th Century and her work illustrates this perfectly. She utilised long stanzas, convoluted descriptions and raw emotion.
“My thoughts are crabbed and sallow,
My tears like vinegar,
Or the bitter blinking yellow
Of an acetic star.”
William Butler Yeats is another great example of the style of 20th century poetry. He has been praised for creating some of the most beautiful poetry ever written. As he was from the modernist era, his style was revolutionary at the time. Even back in the 20th century, poetry was evolving.
“Upon the star that marks the hidden pole;
Fix every wandering thought upon
That quarter where all thought is done:
Who can distinguish darkness from the soul? “
– A Dialogue of Self and Soul
The 21st Century has not killed poetry, in fact it has given it a new lease of life. Poems are simpler and shorter, yet still relatable and moving. Instead of having almost 7 stanzas of 4 to 6 lines, some poets now prefer to have a poem comprise of only 8 to 10 lines. This idea of it being short and sweet works extraordinarily well. Michael Fraudet encapsulates this style very well. His poem Chasing Love is 8 lines long, uses simple descriptors but paints a potent image.
“When chasing love
at any cost–
The pathways meet
but seldom cross.”
Poetry certainly has become less visible on the shelves of libraries and bookstores. It has to compete with things like TV programmes, films, books and music. However, it has certainly not been eradicated. As an art form, poetry puts us back in touch with our humanity. It can help you see yourself in someone else’s struggle and thus you begin to understand and appreciate their strength more.
Writing poetry has become a therapeutic way to express inner thoughts and feelings. It is used as a way to improve mental health and inspire positive thoughts. Those who read or write poetry say the art form helps them make sense of their lives.
Poetry has never been and will never be one definitive way. Just like humanity, it is constantly changing, constantly learning, constantly growing. However, some elements of poetry will never change. The raw emotion it evokes, the beautiful pictures it creates and the long-standing societal impacts it can cause will be around forevermore. For as long as we have emotions and thoughts, we will have poetry.