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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Poetry Is Dead

That's right, like what it says in the title: poetry is dead. Poetry is a dead man's game, played successfully for last time when Victoria was still Queen.

In ages gone by, one could be famous as a poet -- even so much as to make a decent living off of it. Whitman, Byron, Wordsworth, Yeats, all them biggies, they all did it, and did it well, and did it decades ago. Centuries even, some of them. Even cummings, Frost and Auden have been dead more than forty years. They're all dead, and they took poetry with them.

Since then, the perversion of the poetic soul caused by 1960's coffee houses and psychedelic drugs has dimished the appreciation of poetry to the point where no one in their right mind (it was the drugs, remember -- oh, no, you wouldn't, would you?) even attempts to put in the energy and toil required to produce a work of poetic art. Poetry the way the person on the street thinks about it today is lower than karaoke, lower than fan fiction, lower even than the filthy, chewed-up-and-spit-out gum that sticks to the soles of their shoes. Poetry, these days, is nothing: misunderstood to the point of nonexistence.

Oh, sure, I can hear people shouting (and why are they shouting at their screens, anyway?), "No! Wait! I see poetry all the time! I hear it on the radio!"

Sorry, but that's not poetry. Those are just evil bits of fluff concocted by people who want to make cheap, easy money, and sold by Hallmark and their ilk. Or it's all about the commercial, marketing mavens masking a dearth of depth with moronic metre and idiotic rhyme.

And Maya Angelou? Don't get me started.

And yes, there are some great lyrics out there (but please, don't try to convince me any of it was written by 50 Cent -- it won't work, and you'll be wasting your breath and my brain), but lyrics really can't count as poetry. Find me a lyricist who consistently produces verses that can stand as true poetry on their own, without the props of melody and harmony, instruments and voice, and I'll... well, I won't do anything, 'cause it ain't gonna happen.

Don't get me wrong, great lyrics can turn a mediocre melody into a salve for the soul, but a catchy tune or a thumping beat can have the same effect on even the shakiest stanzas. Wooly Bully, anyone?

In fact, I think that, if poetry, in it's trampled-on, put-down, spit-stained senescence, is alive anywhere at all, it'll be, as Paul and Art sang, "written on the subway walls, and tenement halls."

And bathroom stalls.



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