Where’s poetry headed?

Today’s poetry is in danger of taking all poetry into oblivion.

It seems to be following modern music into a world where any form will do. In the case of music this produces discordant cacophony but if that’s what today’s listeners want, that’s what they’ll get.

Words have a musical element too, but they don’t rely solely on that to convey their meaning. Words have meanings and there are limits to those meanings. Further, words only have meanings within certain boundaries of expression. Using words in a format that makes sounds but no sense doesn’t communicate in any worthwhile way.

The old way of writing where the format was as important as, sometimes even more important than, the content is, thankfully, dead. But that doesn’t mean anything goes.
Nor does it mean that poets can rely solely on the sounds their work produces; that would simply be producing music using a different instrument.

At the least, poetry must convey a message that requires understanding of the meanings of the words used, even if those words are used at the same time to convey musical images. No meaning, no poetry is, I suggest, the basic measure of whether what’s produced is poetry or not.

I also believe that publishers who produce all sorts of documents should, as a minimum, present poems that have a discernible meaning (especially, perhaps, the possibility of multiple meanings) if they wish to be listed as publishers of poetry. This may unclutter the marketplace a bit, with the self-important ‘literary’ journals recognised for what they mostly are, consigned to a revised category of ‘vain’ or ‘vanity’ publishing.

Worthwhile poets’ organisations – clubs, societies, groups – have an important role in getting poetry back to a position where it is read and respected, not just by those initiated into the mystic rites of poetising but by the larger part of society.

Poetry belongs to the world; it should return to a form in which the world can accept and enjoy it.

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