Saturday, April 17, 2021

Is It Time To Kill The Poets?

 Poetry Slam! – Or Poetry Slammed?


April is National Poetry Month. What a dud. Why do we dedicate an entire month to this long-ignored art form? We lose if we celebrate poetry and force it to exist another year in its decaying, broken, miserable form— and yet we guiltily feel we lose something if we turn our back on the creative writings of some brilliant and passionate poets.

Maybe National Poetry Month should be turned into a fundraiser so that we can rescue our poets who make peanuts. This can just be done on GoFundMe or Kickstarter.  But they don’t just starve financially. They starve mentally and emotionally. They stare for attention and acceptance. They starve to be understood. Where can they turn to be redeemed and revitalized?

We need to really put a spotlight on those who struggle to have their voices heard. Too many have suffered from underexposure and misunderstanding for millennia. For some, poetry is a beloved way to express and consume one’s ideas, emotions, experiences, and dreams. However, the masses have always failed to understand poetry, and yet like the tortured poets themselves, continue to promote poetry. Often the promise of poetry in greater than its reality.

We just toy with poetry. From haiku and rhyming, to free verse and sonnets, the nation does not take it seriously. Just a handful read it. Far fewer understand or like it. So, what is the point of putting up a fake front, a charade? Let’s just tell it like it is. Poetry stinks. It frustrates us because it only hints at what it is trying to say. Everything is up to interpretation. Reading it is like doing a 5,000-piece puzzle with a few missing pieces. It is like trying to learn a new language with no rules and ever-changing and shifting meanings attached to the words.

Worse than that, we may, on rare occasion, understand the poem’s intentioned message and it is one of mortality, pain, suffering, loss, broken hearts, and love denied. Now who the hell wants to struggle to win that kind of prize? Hooray, I understand the insane, victimized, and troubled poet. Now what do I do with that?

Perhaps we should just use this moment as a final call to kill all of the poets and burn their incoherent rantings. Just put them out of their misery.  No more will students be asked to interpret 500-year-old musings, and no more will they be overwhelmed by the challenge to translate the words of tortured souls.

Think about it.

We can’t stay stuck in neutral and allow poetry to flutter along with one foot in purgatory. Either we do everyone a favor — librarians, educators, tutors, students, and poets — and just do a giant purge — or, really around poetry and help both poet and poetry reader to live a life of reward and fulfillment and to appreciate the messiness of the chaotic writings of soul-disheveled poets.

We treat poetry the way we waffle over whether it is time to cross someone off of out holiday card list. You know, that person you keep in touch with but really have little to say anything to. You only have something from the past in common with them and to you, dumping them is like cutting off a vein to your former self. But it is time to move on, isn’t it?

Or better yet, poetry is like a spouse or boyfriend who cheats on us. We stay with him or her, because despite the disappointment, there is the hope they will change and become better, more of what we want and need. But zebras don’t ever change their stripes, do they?

On the other hand, I should not be so dismissive of all of poetry. I hear Keats, Byron, Shelly, Yeats, Blake, Wordsworth, Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, Poe, Angelou, and Shakespeare all rising up to defend poetry, begging for a reprieve, demanding their due. But haven’t we given poetry a chance over many, many centuries? Is there a role for poetry amidst Netflix, Facebook, CNN, Amazon, 1.6 million books published annually, and so, so many sources of content?

Perhaps poetry is so beautiful because it is shrouded in mystery, meaning all kinds of things to different people and simultaneously nothing to everyone. What a wonderful riddle. If you derive a truth from the lie of poetry, great. And if your head aches from feeling trapped inside the disturbing maze that is another soul, bathe in feeling trapped and alone. You got, after all, an opportunity to die someone else’s death at no cost to you — except for the toll of confronting, through their words, the unpleasant, the anguished, the impoverished. Yes, poetry is an undiagnosed mental disorder, a malady or an infliction that can grip anyone, anytime.

Maybe I should write a poem about how I feel, but why would I want to contribute to this miserable, torturous, and distorted genre?

I will say this: Amanda Gorman lit the universe of poetry on fire. The young Black woman became a new shiny toy for our generations to embrace. Her youth, clarity, forcefulness, optimism, and choked up emotions resemble the ideal of poetry. She makes us look and forces us to go on a noble mission and to embrace a shared vision. Maybe there is hope for a medium best known for leaving readers confused and depressed.

Will you do right by poets and make a clean decision — a mercy killing or an opening of wallets and minds to this most conflicted art? Choose something. The worst thing you can do is fake-celebrate National Poetry Month. That would just be cruel.

If you do celebrate National Poetry Month, gander at these links:

The 32 Most Iconic Poems in the English Language

15 Famous American Poets & Writers

The Writing Habits Of Famous Poets

34 Greatest Poets of All Time

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