HOW I CAME TO LOVE POETRY
Growing up as an introverted teen, I found solace in writing. All my thought was written in the form of poetry. I also wrote poetry for my faculty and student magazines. Fast forward to many years. I submitted my first story and poetry to two different competitions. I didn’t make the shortlist for the short story contest but made third place in a National Poetry competition! Since then, I decided to focus more on poetry. I made Google my friend and looked up local and international writing competitions. Many story writing (prose) contests split into fiction and non-fiction with substantial cash prizes! The same went for drama competitions with mouth-watering prizes, but this was not the case for poetry. I mean, there are poetry contests out there, but few offered good prize money.
That little story of mine formed the basis for my argument that poetry is not as popular as other literary genres. I won’t draw only from my experience. So I decided to engage my friends and mentors in lengthy discussions. I also stayed late nights in many Poetry Groups to brainstorm with other poets. In the end, I was able to collate some of their thoughts. I will share them here.
My first contact was Diego Donati, who believes that “to appreciate poetry you need to be sensitive and speak from the heart. And not many people are like that.” Mark Priestly provided a similar answer to Diego’s with a rhetorical question, “Because it only appeals to the poetic?” I thought so too. But must one be poetic to accept poetry? Soumya Naik supported Mark’s position as he believed that only poetic minds could understand the emotions in a poem.
My friend Steve Stone believed that good poetry makes people think, and most are too lazy to be bothered with that.
“I think partially because it doesn’t get as much exposure because it doesn’t sell as well as the other genres. I think that might have to do with Rock and Roll becoming popular in the mid-’50s. Again with Rap and Hip Hop exploding on the music scene in the early ’80s. If there’s no market for it, no one is going to promote so fewer people are going to discover it and read it.” Steve Howard aptly put.
Sarah Mulqueen quipped, “It doesn’t have to be written ‘correctly,’ it has a law all of its own which I know drives my mother crazy.”
“I would have to say because it is often ambiguous and open to more than one interpretation. My cure for that is to write using common language in uncommon ways.” Tate Morgan supported. Kiran Sharan has this to say: “Perhaps because it’s much more difficult to encapsulate your feelings or thought processes in a few lines as compared to prose where you can ramble on and on unless, of course, you’re writing an Iliad an Odyssey a Mahabharata or a Paradise Lost.”
August Hill was more radical in his approach. “People are too stupid to understand metaphors and symbolism, and they fall asleep with the rhythm if a poem is well done because instead of listening, their mind can’t concentrate that much. Honestly, I’d argue mostly they hear the rhymes. That’s my take.”
He went further to elaborate. “For what it’s worth, the other day, I was looking for a poetry circle in my city. I figured I’d look on the paper and internet, and all I could find was articles about “Is poetry a dead art in my country.” So I’m not as optimistic as all the folks that say that poetry is up there. Plus, if you look at it, historically, most poets that were historically and literary consequential died in complete poverty, mistreated by their society to the point of starving to death, dying of disease, or being chased away by their family. So this isn’t something new.
In the words of the French poet Baudelaire, “A poem never was worth bread.” I think it’s because of the abstract nature of poetry. A good poem is worthless because it cannot have a price on it, not because it is mind feces, but because a good poem is world-changing, and nobody could ever own a gift to humanity. Which is precisely the nature of poetry.” I agree with this. He went further.
“It’s not that poverty is part of the life of a poet. It’s just that we are forced into it, and we find peace of mind through poetry. I’d say, if you made money, definitely don’t try to do it through poetry, now if you want to glance behind the veil of reality or if you have a message for the world, that’s the right motivation for poetry. You’ll be disappointed if you seek wealth through it, but if you know you desire something more significant, you’ll never be disappointed, and you probably will reach it without even noticing it. People around you will tell you, you made it, and it will mean more than all the money in the world.
At the same time, I wrote hundreds of poems, and what I noticed is that if you want to write, you must register to write, not write for fame, not for money, not even for recognition… at best if you find kindred spirits, you can share. But even then, poems are not meant to be understood by a reader the way a poet writes.” August concluded.
“From my point of view (I am not dismissing how you see it), well admired is a bit of a stretch. I think people who like and admire poetry are few and far between, and they might feel like it’s well admired because perhaps they see it more in their own lives. I feel like If I think about the entire country, football would be well admired and poetry, liked by some.” Emily Simmance said.
Akua Daps has this to say, “I think part of it is that people have lost the appreciation for the beauty of its interpretation. People want to be shown and told how to view it. Ex. Descriptive books and movies. Vs. How poetry takes your mind on a journey. People aren’t taught the literary tools to dissect poetry like back in the day.”
Luke Fallow has this to say, “Because a certain type of poetry has been perpetuated which is self-indulgent and depressing, so people assume all poetry is just writing about how sad you are.”
In the words of Steve Anc, “People prefer direct communication, but poets had twisted that already.
Therefore, they are confused.” Benjamin Davis supports this “It takes almost as much skill to read and comprehend it as it does to write it.” Cassandra Cassy added that “It’s more difficult to understand both in meaning and language. It seems boring to readers.”
For Michael, Walsh poetry is a mystery for most people. “I mean, we do have the relatively simple poem written about a simple subject, and anyone reading it is quite sure of what it is about.
On the other hand, we have several different types of poetry. Some seldom are correctly understood and often no real idea about what it is about. I suppose in that regard; poetry is very similar to Paintings and Drawings. To some, a simple painting is beautiful, while some have to stand in your head with one eye closed and still not get it. I think reading poetry is probably a much harder skill than it is to write it.
In all of these matters, we are talking about not just cerebral pursuits but also entertainment. And people being entertained do not usually like to work too hard. For then, it is no more extended entertainment, but work, and often demanding career. And people do not expect to have work to be entertained; those two, for most people, are opposed. People like to see and feel what is going on, and in the broad field of reading and writing, most prefer an excellent novel to read. It is there in front of you and is relaxingly simple. Poetry, in a very general sense, is not easy, and it can be very hard or even impossible to understand. So what is the point? There is the adventure poem. I will refer here to the poem about a horse in Australia. Not last century now, but the one before. Two movies about it. “The Man From Snowy River.” This is a long poem. A novel in verse. It has an upbeat feel to it, some uncommon language, but by the end, if it, you feel like you have ridden the horse. The poem gallops along. By the end, the heart is pumping, the breathing fast. You knew what you had done—one of my favorite forms of poetry.
And let’s face it, some poetry does absolutely nothing for me, and I love poetry.”
Ahmed Jouini gave a support response. “It’s less popular because it requires more effort from the audience than the other genres: in the cinema, you have everything in front of you; in music, you can zone out and keep listening as long as there is a catchy beat or some rhymes, etc. This is just one of the reasons.” Abraham Conneh added further, “Poetry is either appreciated or not depending on people’s perception of it. If fuel and spiced well with some visual lay minds grasped its value. More exposure may get people to consider its value.” Also John Green has this to say, “The fact is, many people want something that is 100% tangible, direct, and doesn’t require thinking in the abstract with multiple meanings being possible.”
Nola Alvaro quipped that “Poetry is to be savored in small amounts like the finest of wines.”
Marrero has this to say, “Cause people don’t like to express themselves. Poets are realists. Most people aren’t. And not only that, but I believe it goes by generation. This generation is too distracting. Too many things are going on around us. This is the era of modern technology and mind-altering substances. The list goes on, but you get my point.”
Colin Ward’s opinion: “There are several reasons why song lyrics entirely subsumed English language poetry during the 20th century. Copyright law began the decline, the pseudo intelligentsia’s fascination with cryptocrap accelerated it, and the education system administered the coup de grâce when it ceased teaching its elements.”
Cherie de Perrot’s view is that lyrics for songs are written from poetry, tweaked of course to avoid copyright. “We are the inspiration of many authors, musicians, directors, and movie producers. Alas, the underpaid brilliance behind so much, but for the love of it all, we keep going and laugh when we see a slogan even on an advertisement… Smile to self.”
Tia Papillion agreed with my opinion. “A lot of nonpoets only seek poetry and interested by it till they need it or reach that point. Many people would rather go to get a love book v/s reading a love poem they don’t understand. Of course, it doesn’t have to be about love, but a lot of people think that’s all poetry good for.”
Some poets like Benjamin Allhands thought otherwise because “Popular and or return on investment is difficult. Unless you self publishes, getting a book off is hard. Some spend decades trying.” Also, James Horton argued that “there are elements of poetry in another literary genre.” I agree.
When Jay McDaid gave his opinion, it was entirely otherwise. “That is simply untrue. It’s well-liked. What you are thinking of is the fact that people are less likely to purchase poetry books. That happened when pulp fiction became the common denominator rather than the lowest. One need only drop into a gift card shop to see how popular the primitive verse is.”
Godswill Iren argued further; “That’s not true. Poetry comes first in the origin of the genres. The drama came through festivals and rehearsals, which became adopted as a form of entertainment. But before that, poetry existed through folklores and chants from praise singers. Songs and epic stories told in poetry form was the original work before other forms like prose developed.” Insightful, right?
Haider Farooq opined that “Poetry is the fundamental reason of creations. Poetry is most popular. Even we like to listen to songs, not fiction. We read fiction and sing poetry.” When I asked him why publishers prefer other genres, he replied, “Please be informed that I’m not opposing other genres; however, the publisher is a businessman, so he accommodates all.”
Kim Fleming bluntly disagreed. “I disagree! Poetry is usually about love. It is the holiest art form! Most of all religious scriptures of the world are in part or whole poetry, and most song lyrics are poetry, look at how important love poetry is in religion and song. Humankind has a natural desire to express the most exalted truth in verse, and many songs are religious in theme. I love Neil Diamond. He is my favorite singer/songwriter! I practically worship this guy. No matter who you are, you have a favorite singer/ songwriter, I’ll wager!”
Knowledge is power; knowledge shared is power multiplied. – Robert Noyce.
That’s it for today at Poets’ Corner. What’s your opinion?