“I don’t get poetry.”
That line is a deal breaker, sounding the death knell on an ancient art. But not so fast. Poetry is all around us, alive and well.
From folk singers to rap artists, Instagram influencers with bare lines hashtagged under photos of flowers, to verse novels which use poetry to tell whole stories, our future with poetry echoes back to ancient times where Homer’s journeys were put down in verse.
Poetry is still a journey. I think of Leonard Cohen who described the orange tea a woman made him so well you were there with him and Marianne. I think of the melodies of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, the stories of brotherhood and loss. I think of Francesca Lia Block’s novel Open Letter to Quiet Light, where she invites us to experience the implosion of a love affair.
It allows us to examine deep concepts quickly, like taking a short cut through experiences. I think that is a valuable tool. In prose, it can take hundreds of pages to hammer in a point that a poet makes in several pages.
Not that prose is not wonderful! It is! I love it! Of course! But isn’t it fantastic to be able to run scenarios with many different people before we have to make the mistakes for ourselves?
I think the future of poetry is about that journey and connection. People will always want to connect to other people, to understand both how they feel and how others do. It’s built into us.
Rhythm is another short cut we have to emotion. We can tell when someone is short with us that they might be upset, the tension of a terse song can lift the hairs on the back of our neck… Just one lone note was needed for Tori Amos’ album starter Beauty Queen. The poetry hammered into us that this record was to be a dark journey.
Jill Scott wrote a gorgeous book of poetry that reads every bit as well as her albums sound. It’s modern. There are no thus and therefores that I commonly hear people say turn them off of poetry. She’s not alone. There are many modern poets!
In film this year we can watch Dickinson, a new telling of Emily Dickinson’s life. There is a resurgence of interest in her work, as well as the parts her family hid in order to disguise the relationships she forged.
As time goes on, I can only imagine what stories historians will discover about other poets of the past. What we learn about them reflects on the social norms of their time, but also of ours.
Poets, and all artists, tend to hold up a mirror to their cultures and I think it is fascinating to see how much society has changed just in the past hundred years.
We need to tell our stories, as humans, and equally, we need to hear them.
You don’t need to get poetry. Poetry in some form will get you.
Anaïs Chartschenko hails from the Canadian wilderness. She has come to enjoy such modern things as electric tea kettles. Her published works include: