2nd cousins

The idea is to weave different media elements together into a coherent tapestry. The possibilities are limitless, so eventually you just have to pick and go. So I’m going, having picked.

My central focus is the notion that performance poetry (in all its various forms) is becoming the only relevant form of poetry. The musings of academics are far removed from ordinary people, so what are they really good for, except for providing an elevated inside joke of sorts. This isn’t to disparage erudite, professional poetry; only to suggest that it might as well be dead because only a few tweedy old gentlemen and ambitious grad students are reading it.

This topic is not new. It’s been covered through and through by better qualified men than me.

Dana Gioia, current chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, has written extensively on the subject. His best known essay on this topic, Can Poetry Matter?, was published in 1991 and predicted much of what has happened in poetry in the intervening years. The opening remarks are written (his italics):

Poetry has vanished as a cultural force in America. If poets venture outside their confined world,                                                                                    they can work to make it essential once more.

That choice has not been left up to established poets. They have been bypassed by young nobodies who have risen out of obscurity to create a viable spoken-word scene. The number of venues hosting slams and other types of performance readings has grown rapidly, along with those dedicated specifically to the art form. The ranks of young poets are swelling. This is all due to poetry’s return to common culture from the distant heights it has been held at for most of the last 100 years. Essays on this topic are easy to find, but the central idea that I have come to admire is – this is nothing new, this is a return to the position that poets have held in society since time immemorial; the poet as storyteller, entertainer, and  eloquent voice of social conscience. It predates Homer. Poetry is essentially a populist artform, and only relatively recently has it been cloistered in the stuffy halls of the academy. The two kinds of Poetry are separate artforms, 2nd cousins.

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