A few weeks back, I attended an event where I, alongside several other students, performed slam poems. As I listened to poem after poem, I started to notice a lot of issues that are present in contemporary poetry which I am sure many others have noticed as well. Here, I will speak briefly to those issues and present one of my own solutions to move modern poetry in a better direction.
The most glaring issue that we see in modern poetry is how dull and generic it tends to be. Do you remember that poem read during Biden’s inauguration? Unsurprisingly, it was entirely about all of the liberal talking points: race, a divided country, activism, etc. A shock to no one. In the poem, Amanda Gorman says “We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.” Nothing is hidden, there is little beauty to her poem. It is not art meant to make you feel at peace, rather, it is an MLK style speech. What I find concerning is that this generic, flowery progressive language is now seeping into all art, especially poetry, and has been doing so for quite some time now. At this slam poem event I attended, I was not at all surprised to hear poems about climate change and systemic racism and all the other things that you hear about in every single ad on TV, although it must be noted, these were even more explicit in their subject matter and intent than the ads.
I take issue with the blunt, explicit, and banal nature of modern poetry. It is honestly quite bizarre to hear “poems” that just sound like speeches given by Democratic politicians, but that seems to be the trend. In the past, poems hid their true meaning with beautiful figurative language that required the reader to read between the lines but now it is as blunt as a hammer, serving only to beat the agenda or ideology into your skull. The lack of any veils or literary technique completely ignores the artistic aspect of poems. Poetry is a form of art using words. That is what separates it from other forms of writing, not just the use of lines and verses.
Obviously, teenagers who are inexperienced in writing poetry will not know how to convey their ideas in metaphor and symbolism as well as someone who has been writing poetry for decades, however, that does not mean this kind of poetry doesn’t exist outside of high school ELA assignments. From the little poetry I still hear nowadays, this style has slithered its way into most modern poetry. This is a direct result of post-modernism and the denial of beauty as objective or even desirable, and “progress” being upheld as the highest ideal with everything serving to move thing along (in the liberal direction), but this is a discussion for another day.
The simple solution I propose to alleviate this issue is to just promote better poetry, especially classical poetry, and particularly in schools, so that aspiring poets can find historical writers to take inspiration from. It is extremely difficult for a person to produce magnificent beauty out of nowhere, so it is important that classical poetry is exposed to not only people with an interest in poetry, but society as a whole. Poetry is a beautiful form of expression, and it should never be forgotten or turned into a mere form of rhetoric wherein one recites their social and political views without even the slightest shroud or hint of aesthetic.
If you liked this post and others here at The New Utopian, consider liking this post and subscribing so you can receive email notifications each time an article is published.