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Poetry Is Eternal

from JH Weekly

Poetry is not dead: It’s eternal

By Richard Abowitz

 Jackson Hole, Wyo.-Each April, editors at publications all over the country performed the annual ritual of granting space to poetry. There was a time when most daily newspapers in this country published poems as commonly as crossword puzzles. Instead, poets now get April as National Poetry Month.

So, at JH Weekly we’ve decided to demonstrate the importance of poetry all year by doing our poetry issue outside the April boundaries as strict as the meter in a line in Tichborne’s “Elegy” (that’s a poetry joke). But reflecting the ambiguous nature of poetry, we smirk, the issue date is May 2, and so we are getting our poetry push in before poetry has faded from your mind until next April, the cruelest month (a gratuitous T. S. Eliot reference).

I am amazed how divisive poetry loving can be. In his last column, Mike Bressler, the Public Editor of JH Weekly, who is constantly trying to paint me as a snob like he is Rick Santorum and I’m Barack Obama, mocked me for an article Bressler compared to my “interview with a poet.” Interestingly, he is mistaken, not about the merits of the article, but by his belief that I interviewed a poet in the pages of the JH Weekly. Until this issue, I had not. I am sure that won’t stop Bressler from knocking the elitism of JH Weekly doing a poetry issue next week with fresh vigor.

Poetry does not just produce indifference the way you may not like ballet, but often the special irritation of those who seem stuck in a view of poetry as a fraud to contemporary relevance. Can you name a single living poet? Yes, Allen Ginsberg is dead.

But that is only part of the story. The Internet has shown that poetry still has a massive audience with sites that achieve significant traffic, interaction and vibrancy that has nothing to do with the way poetry is seen as an art form kept on life support by government subsidies, editorial goodwill, and tenure. 

The audience for poetry has turned out to be not only large but surprisingly diverse, covering those who enjoy urban spoken word, slams, cowboy poetry, and reading classics like Whitman. There is even a movement among the school aged, culminating in the Poetry out Loud (which will take place later this month) contest started in 2006, now centered on the once moribund art of memorizing poetry.

Outside the United States, poetry can still be a matter of life and death.

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Posted on May 1, 2012 by Editor

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