A few months ago, my friend Ben wrote a series here exhorting contemporary listeners to give classical music a second chance. When asked if I would do something similar for poetry, my first response was at first, sheepishly: has poetry dropped into the same cultural dead-zone as classical music??
MORE IN THIS SERIES:
Adam Roberts: What Makes a Poem Worth Reading
As a teacher of undergraduate creative writing classes, I'm often forced to admit that it has. I remember, as a young person, being posed the question, "what kind of music do you like?," and coolly, sensibly replying, "everything but classical!"** Now, as a graduate student and adjunct professor, when I ask my students what they like to read, I generally hear the following:
"Oh, pretty much anything."
"...except poetry. I really don't like reading poetry."
Why? What had poetry ever done to them?
And yet, as a teacher and poet, I often find myself strangely identifying with their answer. Yeah, poetry sucks! It's confusing, it's pretentious, it's precious, it's frivolous and disconnected and has nothing to do with my life. Right on.
It is to and from this perspective—that of the absolute, and righteous, skeptic—that I would like to address this series on poetry—a series in which I will actually appeal to you to read the stuff. Now, odds are you already experience "poetic" language almost everywhere in your everyday life—from music videos, to creative advertising formulations, to the rhymes and mnemonic devices that circulate through our days from early childhood. But this series will focus on those strange creatures that actually still choose to call themselves "poetry." What does their world look like today? How to introduce it to an outsider?