Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Staying Relevant

Summer in Venice--Konstantin-Gorbatov-1876-1945 I’m a huge fan of art in all its forms, although I try to keep my little obsession under control on the blog. Okay, I do like to post these great paintings online. But other than that, I’m not usually going off into spacey artist territory. But I love all of it—drama, visual, musical, written. To me, it’s a celebration of the human spirit—art sets us apart from the rest of the creatures.

One thing I keep running into lately (and I don’t think it’s because I’m looking for it) is poetry. Yes, poetry. I’ve been noticing it lately in unusual places—snippets in commercials, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Spongebob Squarepants. I’ve read it in the newspaper, even. The NewsHour on PBS now has a recurring segment on poetry and features poets reading their work.


I love poetry, but I wouldn’t have said there were many non-writers who share that view.

Poetry—could it be making a comeback?

I love the fact that I’m reading poetry on social media. That tells me that people are saying, “This is relevant to the 21st century. These aren’t archaic sonnets or iambic pentameter verses. This is modern and relevant to today.”

One of my favorite modern poets is Billy Collins. He has a website, from which you can listen to him read some of his poems. He’s made the change to the modern day—he’s networking on a computer, instead of being cooped up in a writer’s garret like the poets of yore. His poetry is relevant and he’s accessible. And…he seems to be making money. From poetry!

I figure, if poetry can survive (despite the fact that not many of us are out there buying chapbooks), then the rest of us have more than a shot at it. Heck, we’re a shoo-in for longevity, despite market shake-ups.

We hear dire predictions. I think, though, if we work on staying relevant by embracing social media, ebooks, networking, and the rest of the changes coming down the pike, we’ll do a lot toward ensuring our survival.

Think about it—haven’t books been making a splash in the media lately? People have been talking about books. There are big name authors releasing big releases, there are price wars at big stores---books are in the news. They’re relevant.

Maybe poets, considering the challenges poetry faces, have to work harder and more consciously for relevancy. Poetry could have ended up being something our kids read about in English class—at the same point they’re reading about obscure literary forms like kennings. Instead, the art form seems poised and ready for the 21st century. Are we? ******************************************************

And now, since I really can’t help myself, I’ll put a couple of links to some poems I’ve enjoyed lately. :) And a snippet from Billy Collin’s poem, Forgetfulness:

The name of the author is the first to go followed obediently by the title, the plot, the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain, to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Summons—Robert Francis On Turning Ten—Billy Collins