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My Modern Poetry Rant

February 4, 2009

Yesterday I had a discussion with a friend about Modern Poetry.  I tend to not like many of the poems written over the past forty or fifty years and he asked me why.  I liked my response to him so much, that I thought that I would post it.

Much that passes as “poetry” these days is mindless, yet pretentious drivel. Take for example Elizabeth Alexander’s Neonatology.  (I will not post it here because it is a bit crude.)  The poem seems to be very self-serving, as if everyone wants to read about her gory view of childbirth.  Which leads me to another problem that I have with modern poetry:  it often is written only with the writer in mind.  A writer (who wishes to be read) must always think of his reader and what his writing is invoking, otherwise the poem is better suited for a diary.

Other times, modern poetry seems to be prose forced into the embodiment of poetry. It often seems that modern writers feel that in order for their writing to evoke emotion that it must be in the form of a poem. I don’t think that this needs to be the case. I think that prose can be as beautiful, passionate and moving as a poem. We often seem to expect that a paragraph must lead somewhere, where as a poem stands on its own. I don’t think that this needs to be the case. A well written paragraph, while appearing overly simplified or matter-of-fact, may indeed reveal as many layers as a poem.

A free verse poem should be without rhyme or meter, yet with an elegant rhythm that somehow seems above the normal rules and limits of classic poetry. It shouldn’t leave me feeling as if I just wasted five minutes of my day having some poet-wanna-be try to get me to understand that I will never understand him.

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