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Monday, 1 March 2010

The Lost Art of Reading Poetry.

It's the 21st century. Nobody reads poetry anymore. This claim is probably debatable, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who do read poetry for pleasure, but I suspect they are few and far between. How many of you do? How many of you even know someone who does?

It seems to me that the only people who read poetry (or at least serious poetry, discounting overly twee, sentimental or purely humorous verse, although all those things I'm sure have there place) are either students of literature or people who are moderately serious about writing it, and it is usually only the later who read it for pleasure. Again, this is probably an over simplification, but one which, without doing any research, I would be willing to bet has large measure of truth.

I fall into both of the above categories and I will freely admit that I probably don't read enough poetry. This is a fault on my part.

Why don't people read poetry anymore? For some people the enjoyment of poetry is destroyed by having it dissected in front of them at school. Unlike dissecting frogs, there is no morbid fascination in the dissection of poetry. Only dry skeletal structures of metre and rhyme. For the aspiring poet these things are important, for the lay reader the effect (unless they are interested in the technical side) the effect is something similar to watching a magician who tells you 'I am now going to pull a rabbit from this hidden compartment in the top of my hat'. It could also be that people see poetry as being either overly twee or sentimental (as mentioned above) or pretentious and inaccessible. Or at the very worst both.

I'll be honest, there is a lot of crap out there. Especially on the Internet, where there is often little or no quality control (including on my now abandoned Myspace page). But there is also a lot of really really good stuff out there. Even on the Internet.

From this day forth I vow to read one collection of poems every month. It's not a lot, but it's a quantity I can fit around my uni reading lists, assignments and working. And, fully aware that most of my readers are likely to be students on my course and I may be preaching to the converted, I urge you all to go away having read this and read a poem. Just one. If your lucky, or look in the right places you'll find something which makes you think, which makes you say 'yes that's exactly how that feels/looks' or even just 'It doesn't matter what it means, those words in that order sound beautiful to me'.

In the end, that's what it's all about.

P.S. If you find anything good, send it my way.


  1. I'm not sure how entirely true that is. For me song lyrics are a contemporary form of poetry, providing the same attributes and values that more traditional poetry has in the past, especially in the less commercial/more alternative music that is often listened to by us of the 'artsy' persuasion. Obviously there is a lot of generic, 'twee and sentimental' crap out there, but you can find some truly wonderful poetic songs that can move you in ways you had never even comprehended before.

    So perhaps poetry is still being heard, even more than ever, it just has a beautiful new face.

    'Winter came to Omaha and left us looking like a bride
    A million perfect snowflakes now
    And no two are alike
    And so it’s hard for me imagining flaws in this design
    I know debris, it covers everything
    But still I am in love with this life.'

    Awesome blogging my friend, I've really enjoyed the read so far.

  2. Ha ha, good to see you on here Jim :). And that is of course a very good point, although I would argue that there a subtle differences between the two mediums. There are techniques which work really well in song lyrics, but would sound bad in spoken poetry, and vice versa.