Neil Hester

All poems © Neil Hester unless otherwritten

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Location: North Carolina, United States

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Kim Randell Article; Response

I was reading this blog and found this article, which deserves to be pulled into a greater light:

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Poetry - A Declining Art?

"One of the reasons for the decline in the popularity of poetry today may be the prevalence of writing in freer forms of the art.
No more rigid structure of line and verse, no rhyming couplets and quatrains.
Odes, sonnets and ballads no longer seem to have expected forms.
The very texture of the thoughts behind the words has apparently become the poems in some of these new evolutions and such forms of expressive language and thought totally lose the general public.
We have all been brought up and educated with “classical” metred and rhymed structures, from pre-school to University ( nursery rhymes to Shakespeare), from television “jingles” to popular music, and anything without the repeating and organised patterns that we’ve all learned to recognise as poetry, will tend to be dismissed as prose, albeit written and laid out in an unfamiliar non-prosaic manner.

Our bodies and lives run to many rhythms from heartbeat to circadian to celestial.
Our songs whether Bach, Handel, Abba or Puff Daddy are rhythmic and their lyrics rhyme, so to my mind it is not surprising that the modern and experimental poets are given short shrift by the general public if their work is not to expected shapes.
Shakespearian Iambic Pentametre, for example, is a copy of the rhythm of the human heartbeat. John Masefield’s use of rhythm and rhyme in poems such as “Cargoes” enhances the word pictures of the various vessels in the poem.
One could define classic poetry as a “song without music” which suggests the requirement of recurrent themes of sound and structure. Take these rhythms away and the free-flowing shape of modern poetic writing is rejected by the majority of our peers as directionless, shapeless and untenable (the Universe is full of finite and recognisable shapes and thus shall be our poetry).

Today’s poetry scene has become asymmetrically bi-polar.
On the one hand a small group of modern poets and supporters with their new definitions of poetry, and on the other hand a massive public which is still being fed and educated with rhyme and rhythm, and whose expectation is more of the same.
Modern poetry, if thought about at all, is being perceived by ordinary folk as an exclusive domain for the erudite few, a past-time for unkempt and bearded introverts, or in its worst form, absolute rubbish. We all know where the money is, and so professional promotion also supports the expectations of the greater public.

What is most ironic is that the classical poet is not always recognised now by his modern peers and thus is denied their encouragement and support, which, in turn, denies the paying public the poetry they expect.
Poetry to the man in the street has now become a dying and irrelevant art form restricted to dusty halls of learning and old libraries.



Renaissance for the art form rests, in my opinion, with the classical styles the greater public expects. A collection of contemporary classical poetry could contain a few introductory modern poems as a means of educating the public to the newer forms of poetry, and so everyone would benefit from this inclusive, non-partisan approach.

My oldest son, when he was just thirteen, told me that he was discouraged by his English teacher from writing in rhyme that year, as he and his peers had not developed sufficient language skills in her opinion. How will he and others develop those skills and disciplines without encouragement at an earlier age by their teachers?
Free form styles rule in school!

So, as very few people in educational institutions appear today to be promoting the necessary English language skills and dedicated craftsmanship needed for production of classical poetry styles, the situation for poetry in general is going to continue to deteriorate.
For those of you who say, “But look at the recent increase in the numbers of our poets,” I will say, “But look at the even greater increase in our general population!” The ironic twist mentioned above will continue screwing contemporary poetry as a whole into the ground whilst the craft and skills of classical poetry writing are being allowed to dissipate."
© Kim Randell 2006

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After reading this rather interesting write-up I felt inclined to give a fairy long comment:

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As for the title, agreed. Poetry is declining in quality (it's increasing in quantity, but really; who cares?). I find it interesting that your 13-year-old is being discouraged from trying to write in rhymed/rhythmic form, but I suppose it makes sense as far as easy/hard goes. Writing bad free verse takes less effort than writing bad classical/form poetry. Writing good free verse, however, is just as difficult as writing good classical/form poetry. Since 13-year-olds are pretty much going to write all bad poetry, it's easier to assign free verse.

I suppose teachers don't want to push children too hard in practicing a dying art; that's doesn't help. It's good for them to try writing in more restricting forms; all kids should try writing to see if there's potential and to experience the struggles involved in using certain forms. Too bad most teachers probably don't like poetry themselves.

Recognition as a classical/form poet is more difficult because poetic Academia is corrupted with "movements" (Confessionalism, Surrealism, etc.) which are generally more easily supported by free verse (especially if the writers aren't talented). [Note: Academia may have more of an effect in America, I'm not sure.] On top of that, movements care more about what you say, not how well you say it, hence why I mentioned people without talent working their way into the system (Academia) by saying the right things, politically or otherwise, in their poems.

Once poets are in the system, they can throw together doggerel and publish it, and people will buy it because you're "good", since you're in the system. It's easier to throw together free verse, especially if you need to say something specifically. Of course, most of the time they fail to say it well, defeating the purpose of writing it in "poetry" (read: prose broken into lines) in the first place. Because of this system, free verse is taking over contemporary poetry. Woo!

I'm more bothered by bad poetry prevailing over good poetry due to Academia's political "you promote me and I'll promote you!" system, but hey; most of the bad poetry I speak of is in free verse, and good classical poetry is mostly in rigid forms, so we're almost talking about the same thing ~_^

Kudos on the article, I may quote it/link it om one of my entries (it deserves more light) and put my response under it. Enjoyable read to those it concerns ^^

~LAEvanesce

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The current development of poetry is pretty alarming; higher quantity, lower quality. That doesn't work in art. That works a lot better in, oh... food? =P

2 Comments:

Blogger AnoNick said...

Thanks for linking to the article.

In India, poetry isn't paid attention to in schools. I did not learn poetry in school, just read it.

I wanted to write, but couldn't write good "poetry" (still can't) because I am not well educated in metre, rhyme.

Sometimes, people just neglect poetry, considering it a dead art. How is it supposed to live if neglected?

8:44 AM  
Blogger Kim G Randell said...

My new blog link is
http://a-classical-poet-of-australasia.blogspot.com/
Please have a look and enjoy....

Kind regards,
Kim Randell

5:23 AM  

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