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Poetry: Dying or Thriving?

Spoken-word poet Rudy Francisco (Photo courtesy of Metropolis Management)

The generation we live in exists in the realm of the temporary. From the endless shuffle of Snapchat stories with lifespans encapsulating a mere 24 hours to the perpetual archive of media online, it’s far too easy to allow the seemingly insignificant fragments of our lives to be filed away into oblivion. In this sense, it’s a blaring blue-lights and binary-code world, poetic in a different type of utopia than Robert Frost would have imagined.

Like too many of the memories we thought were immortal, will poetry, too, fall from humanity’s favor and into the infinite spectrum of transience?

Eighty-five percent of people confuse the poetic works of Aristotle and Lucretius with the verses of rapper giant Kanye West. Others speculate that Robert Burns, writer of Auld Lang Syne, wrote Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself,” or that the Backstreet Boys penned the words of Sylvia Plath(OnePoll). Which isn’t something that discredits the work of contemporary music artists or condemns them as, well, unpoetic, but it’s disarming to see that some think Dr. Dre wrote a line to Shakespeare’s “Tempest.” Pop culture and social media have a globalizing impact on the world, but they both come with a price.

Government data shows that people have been reading poetry at an increasingly declining rate, a trend which depicts the circumstance of what some call a “dying art.” Merely 6.7 percent of adults confess they have read a work of poetry in the past 12 months, less than half the number who did 20 years ago — making poetry less popular than knitting(Washington Post). These statistics manifest themselves their own questions: Does poetry matter? Is poetry dead? Does anyone actually care?

Well, of course, you might say. Everything must have someone to care for it — the 6.7 percent mentioned above, for instance. Schools certainly do, and so does the College Board. It is taught in formal education purely from a literary stance without beginning to recognize the artistic and performative value poetry can have. Identify diction, imagery, and figurative language. Do not, however, identify the capacities and lengths which the poet took to extract this shard of soul onto paper. Do not feel the poem as if it were living.


You could argue that school’s primary purpose is to educate on the analytical aspects of different types of literature. It is in some aspects similar to comparing AP Music Theory to orchestra or band, or AP Art History to studio art. The academic and artistic facets of a subject are separate, but both necessary. While poetry isn’t popular enough on its own to garner an arts class dedicated solely to it alone, interest in creative writing as a broad subject might. It’s extremely important to focus on the creative aspects of literature, and poetry is a feature of that that is unfortunately lesser known. But that’s what we’re aiming for — the growth and blossoming of poetry, and the people it will capture with its beauty.

Luckily, the speed with which word travels in this generation propels poetry forward, if not little by little. Spoken word poetry has especially been given more interest in the past years, with YouTube channels(such as Button Poetry) and online spoken word poets making themselves heard. Most recently, the movie Sierra Burgess is a Loser touched on poetry in the classroom and on the poetry of everyday life, in which character Jamey makes an analogy between football and poetry. Football and poetry; evidence that poetry can be present in all aspects of life. And nearly everyone has heard, seen, and had some type of opinion on Rupi Kaur’s infectiously popular poetry book “Milk and Honey.” Amazon reviews on the book range from “uninsightful, pseudoprofound garbage that you can find… pasted on a picture with a flower,” to “a beautiful and heartbreaking expression of [a] young woman’s experience as a female.”

The focus, however, is not the type of opinion Kaur has collected. It is that there is an opinion at all. It is the exposure of poetry to mainstream media, whether the audience abhors or adores it(ultimately, it is an art form, and art serves to make people feel something). In this day and age, we find the revival of old things flourish with the invention of technological communication. And hopefully, more and more individuals will begin to view poetry as more than a hipster thing solely for artisan coffee-drinkers and beret-wearers.

We’re not about to let poetry die. I certainly won’t — and neither will today’s contemporary poets. We’re waiting for a quiet revolution. We are the 6.7 percent rising.

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