Speechwriting: Corporate, Weddings, Retirement

3/9/10

Bad Poetry in a Digital World


Why is it so many poets say they are influenced by Yeats, Wordsworth or Auden, but they write like MTV, Oprah or Simon Cowell?

I've started submitting my work to major publications (including Poetry Magazine). To understand where I am sending, I am reading through literary magazines. I'm not impressed. So much of it ignores rhythm, and reads more like prose chopped up into short phrases, as if William Shatner is reading it.

It is more than the form that lacks. It is the subject matter. Highly personal, the topics tend to be more about the poet's view of themselves and their interaction with an immediate world rather than a sense of what the world is like apart from themselves.

Like a high school literary journal, so much eeks of bad boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, except without the emotional insight.

Is good poetry out there? Of course there is. Not enough. Poets need to learn phrasing, punctuation and, above all forms. They can go free verse if they like, but without the basis of forms, free verse is just street poetry without the authenticity.

What made the best of the Beat Poets' work was they knew the classics. Jack Kerouac was not against the so-called "dead poet's society," but read them regularly. Likewise with the predecessor to the Beats, Carl Sandburg. Neither of these guys wrote free verse because they hated the classic forms, but because it was the best tool for communicating what

I recently Tweeted:
The most interesting poets are ones outside of academia and publishing. Their view is unadulterated by the literary culture, fresh and innocent.
There's a enduring trouble with poetry right there. Much of it comes out of the university setting, chosen by doting students who do not realize their professor's work is mediocre. Politics revolves around all of this in some cases. Not necessarily vindictive, butter, Chicago-style politics, but the kind that is built on relationships. Say you meet an editor at a conference, you connect, and viola! The bond is made, and poems are published. Some of this boils back to the Emperor's New Clothes.

Can a poet outside of academia be published? Absolutely. The MFA or PhD helps in greasing the wheel, however. To the defense of the editors, there is a safety in using those who you know. Deadlines will be met if the piece is commissioned, and the end product will be, for all intents and purposes, soundly constructed. In short, it won't suck. It might even be very good. Finding the same consistent quality among those outside of the inside is hard work, and that takes time. Editors at small press have neither time, nor the money to chase the poets. With press runs at 1,000 or 2,000, much of which goes unread, stuck on library shelves or purchased by benevolent subscribers who merely want to support the publisher, getting things done well and quickly is no small matter.

Writing overall seems to have taken a hit over the last few decades. Maybe it is because I live in this moment. Maybe if I lived 50 years ago I would have said the same thing (minus the modern pop culture references). Fiction is drawing from a similar lot of ideas, with just as little creativity. Except for James Frey. He writes fiction, but calls it truth (sources like at Wikipedia).

Star Trek Trailer (Spoof): William Shatner shows Chris Pine how to be Captain James T. Kirk (FrankTV) (more Frank Caliendo on WGN here)
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