How Poetry has Failed and Been Failed (a two page essay)


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feel free to disagree this is the first formal non-school essay I have written any and all feed back is useful

How Poetry has Failed and Been Failed (a two page essay)

How Poetry has Failed and Been Failed

By: Jordan Craig



     What is poetry? Is it the stupid things our teachers make us read in class? Is it the pretty words someone wrote a hundred years ago? Is it art in the purest sense? Is it the joy we find the little things? Poetry is by textbook definition, “writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound and rhythm” (Merriam-Webster New Collegiate Dictionary). To me poetry is the purest, most honest expression; a tool used to help mend and reunite humanity; and lastly it is the essence of life. Poetry is more importantly a dying useless art form in the eyes of the general public, and here in lies our problem.

     Ask people off the street “Do you like poetry? Is poetry important today?” The majority will likely answer along the lines of “No, I don’t like any and not anymore.” The problem is there is so much out there now that the good gets mingled with the mediocre. Today the subculture of American poets is a large and diverse group. With tens if not hundreds of thousands of poets ranging from amateur secondary schoolers to well paid professionals doubling as English Professors. Within the diversity comes skill level differences, many pieces in anthologies today are little more than thoughts jotted down on paper and published. Many of today’s poets have lost the love and/or understanding for language.

     The loss of understanding stems from a change in culture and upbringings. Parents used to read thier children poetry every night; nursery rhyme after nursery rhyme they had planted and watered the seeds. Somewhere around age five you shifted from nursery rhymes to Dr. Suess, then you abandoned your gardens. Instead of planting summer squash in place of spring honey dew, you let the fruits dry under the summer’s sun. I propose a way to mend this cultural hole: parents read your children nursery rhymes until they are around four or five, then as they age try Dr. Suess and children’s poetry like Shel Silverstien, J. Patrick Lewis, and/or Jane Yolen. Hopefully with this constant feed of the art by the age of twelve, when they begin to learn poetry and prose in school, they would have a healthy apprication of poetry.

     Ideal poetry feeds the mind and soul; it's what unifies us as human beings. When experianced as it was inteded for poetry can change how you see the world, and how you see your neighbors. Sharing pain and joy, frustrations and relief, that is poetry. In sharing these things you are allowed a glimpse into the soul of another where you begin to realize we are not all that different from our neighbor and kin alike. And maybe, just maybe, we can then learn to adapt and accept our human diversity. With any luck, the combination of the appriciation of poetry and the true purpose in our foreminds as we read, it will ingnite a love for poetry before educators have the chance to dilute that.

     We have all had that English teacher (many of us multiple teachers) who drone on and on about the importance of literature and the significance of carefully picked apart figurative language within a piece of writing. Well that is one of the ways our educational system has failed us, they are focusing on the analysis and disection of poetry and prose less so than the raw artform it is. Poetry is not ment to be read and sliced apart, true poetry was ment to be read aloud in your mother’s soothing voice, whilst you and your siblings crowded by the fire on a cold October evening desperately trying to escape the nip caused by your father stumbling through the door, finally home from work. I do realize that the modern American family no longer huddles around a wood burning stove but poetry can still be shared with the passion it was intended to hold. So many teachers nowadays just like to slap a book infront of your child and say read silently, show three examples of imagry, and explain the symbolism. I personally had an English teacher in highschool I loved dearly, Mr. Bogner, who read the poem “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold atleast once a year. He read with passion and seriousness as needed, we discussed the work as a class and how it made us feel oposed to lectures and disections that too often come with teaching poetry.

     Poetry has been around since the dawn of human culture in the form of legends, taught and shared from one generation to the next. Once Rome established the rights of will and democracy (free speech coming with that) poetry became what it is meant to be. Frost, Shakespeare, Poe, Hughes, Wordsworth and many others have defined ideal modern poetry. Verse with a distinct and beautiful purpose, encased in timeless imagry. As the playwrite Alan Haenhel once said to me in a writing workshop I attened of his, “Writing is not_______, writing is _________.” He makes every student of his learn this pharse and by the end of the course be able to fill the blanks in and understand it. “Writing is not an explination of meaning, writing is the creation of meaning.” For example "Birches" by Frost was written with the message of enjoy your carefree youth as it is disappearing before your eyes. Frost did not sit down at his desk and try to simply explain the importance of cherishing youth, he explored and created the concept through the carefree act of flying off a tree branch on comfortable summer’s day. But so much contemporary poetry is lacking the fundimental creation of meaning and is simply telling.

     Perhaps the largest problem here is that poetry is no longer reviewed and critiqued as it should be, with Haenel’s quote and the sound of the work in mind. Prose gets read, a star count, and a decisive yes or no kind of review. Poetry today, having such small audience outside of academics and fellow poets, is afraid to honestly and both quantitiavely and qualitatively critique work. Poetry has taken such a back burner that the Poetry Pultzer Prize winner for 2012, Tracey K. Smith, was announced the last week of December and the New York Times has made no mention of it although Tracey is an accomplished American poet. What we get from this backburned underturned review system is substandard poems published again and again with a few gems washed out by all the mud. In modern anthologies I have noticed that about fifteen percent of published works are worth something but that fifteen is scattered amongst so much useless mediocre work that it gets over looked. Poetry is not dead it is just smothered in the mud.

     What American culture and poetry need to patch their crumbling relationship is a lifelong exposure to the art, educators with an artistic not analytical approach, and honest and dedicated critics. The world we live in has become very dark any able minded human can see that, and I cannot say a revival of poetic arts would turn anyone more towards violence. I doubt this change will be immediate, or even probable, but with proper coaxing and the reintegrating of poets to the public front we can fix the fractures this culture has left on the soul. The next few generations have the ability and the duty to restore poetry in American culture, thus restoring the humility in humanity.

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poett commented on How Poetry has Failed and Been Failed (a two page essay)


Love it. Especially this part...To me poetry is the purest, most honest expression; a tool used to help mend and reunite humanity; and lastly it is the essence of life.... I always say poetry is self explanatory n like painting a portrait full of color... We create life in everything we write and I enjoy writing free-style better than following any style, form or pattern. No one can say what we write is wrong even if they analyze it n grade it. To a poet a write is a piece of them, their heart, soul, mind and spirit all combined n put into a perfect piece that bring emotion, and helps us as well others who are going through the same experience. Good job... Hugs

lisaner commented on How Poetry has Failed and Been Failed (a two page essay)


Good work, JJ- I agree with many of the points you made so well in this piece. Was this essay written for a school assignment? Will you become one of the future educators, like your Mr. Bogner, who will not dissect and over-analize, but allow the student to enjoy poems? I think one of the main reasons people say they don't like poetry is because in school they "didn't get" the "deeper meanings" their teachers said were there. Unfortunately, many of today's poems' meanings are crystal clear, but there is a massacre of the language in the process, often devoid of any kind of creativity, rhyme, or meter. Excellent and thought provoking work.



Thank you and no this was not for school Haehnel came to Drama Con 2012 and talked to us about writing then I read an article on the downfall of American poetry after the 60's and thus this. Teacher has crossed my mind but it's not on the top of the list...

windsongs commented on How Poetry has Failed and Been Failed (a two page essay)


this is thoughtful, some things cant be measured!

windsongs commented on How Poetry has Failed and Been Failed (a two page essay)


ur beautiful.............................................................................:)



You should have wrote my sons essay!

Poetry is what gets lost in translation.

Robert Frost (1875-1963) American Poet.

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