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Poetry Is The Key – and Not The Money.

from NY Times

Poetry: Who Needs It?

By 

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — WE live in the age of grace and the age of futility, the age of speed and the age of dullness. The way we live now is not poetic. We live prose, we breathe prose, and we drink, alas, prose. There is prose that does us no great harm, and that may even, in small doses, prove medicinal, the way snake oil cured everything by curing nothing. But to live continually in the natter of ill-written and ill-spoken prose is to become deaf to what language can do.

The dirty secret of poetry is that it is loved by some, loathed by many, and bought by almost no one. (Is this the silent majority? Well, once the “silent majority” meant the dead.) We now have a poetry month, and a poet laureate — the latest, Charles Wright, announced just last week — and poetry plastered in buses and subway cars like advertising placards. If the subway line won’t run it, the poet can always tweet it, so long as it’s only 20 words or so. We have all these ways of throwing poetry at the crowd, but the crowd is not composed of people who particularly want to read poetry — or who, having read a little poetry, are likely to buy the latest edition of “Paradise Lost.”

This is not a disaster. Most people are also unlikely to attend the ballet, or an evening with a chamber-music quartet, or the latest exhibition of Georges de La Tour. Poetry has long been a major art with a minor audience. Poets have always found it hard to make a living — at poetry, that is. The exceptions who discovered that a few sonnets could be turned into a bankroll might have made just as much money betting on the South Sea Bubble.

There are still those odd sorts, no doubt disturbed, and unsocial, and torturers of cats, who love poetry nevertheless. They come in ones or twos to the difficult monologues of Browning, or the shadowy quatrains of Emily Dickinson, or the awful but cheerful poems of Elizabeth Bishop, finding something there not in the novel or the pop song.

This is not a disaster. Most people are also unlikely to attend the ballet, or an evening with a chamber-music quartet, or the latest exhibition of Georges de La Tour. Poetry has long been a major art with a minor audience. Poets have always found it hard to make a living — at poetry, that is. The exceptions who discovered that a few sonnets could be turned into a bankroll might have made just as much money betting on the South Sea Bubble.

[ click to continue reading at NYTimes.com ]

Posted on June 15, 2014 by Editor

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