Does Anyone Read Poetry Anymore?

Back when my book group could still meet in person we had a fun month where everyone chose a piece of poetry to share. We had funny poems, romantic poems, some pithy pun filled poems, and then there was me dredging up the angst with Sylvia Plath:)

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that I was a definite poetry nerd as a teenager. I was into all the angst, all the pain, and definitely all the darkness associated with poets like Plath, Dickinson, Lowell, and Eliot. I still have shelves of poetry books, including an inordinately morbid number of First World War poets, as well as a surprising number of romantics! I have to confess though in recent years I’ve bought very few new volumes of any kind of poetry and, apart from this particular book group project, have rarely taken down a book of poetry to peruse for fun. So what happened? (you know apart from life, motherhood, etc…) Why had poetry dropped off my reading list so precipitously?

A few years ago I remember hearing the poet Jane Hirschfield being interviewed on Fresh Air and being mesmerized by her poetry reading (I had to pull the car over so I could listen to the whole broadcast). More recently I was inspired by Amanda Gorman’s amazing poem at the inauguration and I do hope this elevation of poetry and performance will reignite popular interest (not that I think publishers ever viewed poetry as a great money maker!). For me, though, the desire to reconnect with poetry came a few months ago (pretty much after my book group project which made me realize what I’ve been missing). Since then I’ve been trying to start off my writing day with reading at least one poem. It’s been, at best, a sporadic success, but I am so glad that I’m finding the time to reincorporate poetry back into my life…but still I have to wonder, does anyone actually read poetry anymore??

What about you TKZers? Are you a poetry fan or was poetry just something cruel English Literature teachers forced you to study? Do you, as writers, ever use poetry as a creative or inspirational tool? What do you think are the chances that poetry is now back in vogue (if it ever was!)?



For the Love of Poetry

The school year is back in session and with it comes the usual stresses and changes – especially with the introduction of a new Colorado standards and (yet again) a new math curriculum. One thing I’ve noticed on the language arts front over the last few years (and, mind you, my children are just finishing elementary school) is the absence of poetry.

Now I have to admit I don’t remember being forced to learn much in the way of poetry until high school, although I do remember having to learn poems to recite in front of class, and having various poetry anthologies on school supply lists at least since elementary school (yes, I still have them!) so clearly poetry was well integrated into the curriculum program.

Today (sadly) my own boys know little about poetry – the only verses they’ve been exposed to so far are inane ones  about smelly gym lockers or disgusting vegetables. A tragic moment came last year when, after being forced to re-write one of these ‘poems’, my son Jasper declared that poetry was, in his opinion, ‘the most boring and useless thing ever!’. Anyone who knows me well knows that those were ‘fighting words’ and (horror upon horror!) I proceeded to lecture him the soulfulness and beauty of what I call ‘real’ poetry.

This got me thinking though – how much do children (or adults) for that matter get exposed to poetry? Surely even elementary students can appreciate the beauty of Wordsworth, Blake or Keats, or TS Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’…so why is it the poetry seems to have been relegated to some archaic shelf?

Although I admit to wallowing (as many teenage girls did) in the angst ridden poetry of Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson, I feel my exposure at school to a range of poets as a both a child and as a young adult was vital to inspiring in me a love of poetry. Indeed, when I’m writing, I still feel the urge to flick through a beloved book of poems  – allowing the beauty of the imagery and language to inspire, in turn, my own prose. I feel sorry that, so far, my own boys haven’t been introduced to the same breadth or beauty in poetry – at least at school (they don’t get off that easy – I plan to inflict as much poetry as I can  at home!).

So what about you TKZers – did you get much exposure to poetry at school? Did you grow to love or hate it as a result? Do you think poetry has become somehow ‘outdated’ in this age of electronic communication or do, you like me, hope that it will make a resurgence, and lead some young people at least to love it and appreciate it as much as I do.