Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Rise, Demise and Imminent Rebirth of Modern Poetry

Why is it that the swing away from poetry to prose has been so severe? Is poetry, once the stuff or romance and potency, now seen as something marginal? Once a poet was feted in much the same way as a Rock star. Now if you say you are a poet the likelihood is that you might get some sideways glances or a patronizing smile. 'Of course you are dear, after all, isn't everyone?'
Prose and poetry are cousins. One can exist with the other without there being either conflict or competition. Obviously one offers a different experience from the other but that is no bad thing, is it? So why then does prose still sell in bucket loads whilst poetry sells in dribbles? So what is it that pulls an audience toward prose stories more than poetry? Do we blame J.K. Rowling for igniting a young audience's passion for prose and in doing so ignoring poetry? I think not. Something the sadly missed Maya Angelou said gives me both hope and insight. She said that Rap Music kept her optimistic about the future of poetry.

“Years ago I did a movie called Poetic Justice, and there was a young man the first day who cursed so, I couldn’t believe it. I walked around, behind him, tried to ignore him. But the second day, he and another young man, [a] black man, ran to each other and were about to fight. Hundreds of extras started to run away. But one black man walked up to the two young men, and I walked up, and I took one by his shoulder. I said, ‘Let me speak to you.’ … He finally calmed down, and I said, ‘Do you know how much you are needed? Do you know what you mean to us? Do you know that hundreds of years of struggle have been for you? Please baby, take a minute.’ … I put my arm around him. He started to weep. The tears came down. That was Tupac Shakur. I took him, I walked him down into a little gully and kept his back to the people so they wouldn’t see him, and I used my hands to dry his cheeks.”

That statement and that quote fill me with an excitement not dissimilar to hearing 'Revolver' for the first time or, same year different occasion, of  England winning the world cup. There is not only life in the old beast but also interest. Fact is Rap sells major style so with that thought in mind, and seeing that musical genre owes a huge debt of thanks to poetry, why can't that fluid, magical older form of verse do the same?

It of course can but how?

The spoken word is key. Hearing poetry spoken, 'Under Milkwood' being a perfect example or indeed hearing Maya Angelou, or any poet for that matter, read out loud their work is an exhilarating experience.

Poetry's link to song goes back centuries.They were born of the same mother. They share history. However, you cannot read songs, well you can if you read the lyric but you either need to sing them or hear them to fully get the impact of the piece.. Same with poetry. Yes, you can read it but hearing it spoken helps. It gives that extra oomph that I believe will fire-up the hearts of not only the young, although bringing more youth on board would be good, but everyone.

Of course there is another medium employed nowadays with pop music and that is the video. Again this format adds to another by visually assisting delivery. Seeing is believing. Hearing is perceiving. Together the two stamp an authority by virtue of demanding attention that a book of verse doesn't always achieve.

Poetry responds to a basic human needs. It can be cathartic when read or heard. It literally has the ability to change lives. What it needs now is to accept other ways of presenting itself, of getting back to roots while dallying a while with modern means to get those poems heard. 

Something For The Weekend, Sir?  makes no false promises. It can only be a vehicle for assisting an already beautiful art form but in so doing the 'voice' of poetry embraces a modern means as it delivers an exciting message.

Very soon poets will be reading the spoken word here. Enjoy.


Roger Stevens said...

I'm looking forward to that then.

Russell Duffy said...

LOL. I suspect you'd say it is already happening and that you are part and parcel of its rebirth.
You could always re-take your seat here as our most revered and eminent of poets and see if your fellow poets would like to partake!
You are after all, along with Michael, fellow administrators of this blog. :)