Modern poetry presents us with many problems. Like: the problem of understanding it. There are no rules to poetry, not any more, not for a century at least. I subscribe to some literary magazines on the internet. I get most of my poetry from The Rumpus and Across The Margin. These literary mags function as curators and critics. Who is there to tell us when something is good in poetry? Are there reviews of poetry? Sure there are! Does anyone read them? I do, out of curiosity. Just as I read poetry that’s being reviewed, out of curiosity and because they are appearing in magazines that I trust. Their very appearance is a critical acclaim. It’s in Rumpus, so it must be good. Etc.
It really gets down to taste and patience. Poetry is “OUT” in pop culture. It takes too long, requires too much commitment. I haven’t encountered a contemporary poet who inspires me to be a fan, to glue myself to his or her output with enthusiasm.
Other than myself. I’m a big fan of myself. A BIG fan.
When we were in high school we had Poetry Gods. We had e.e.cummings, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, T.S. Eliot, okay, yes, Allen Ginsberg. We had a Movement, we had the Beats and then Hippies. Am I out of touch? Let me know, will you?
Still, poetry thrives. It’s a bigger world, with more people, more poets.
Then there’s SLAM POETRY! The high culture equivalent of hip hop. I don’t know anything about SLAM POETRY except that it’s great fun, the audience is fully involved, the passions are up front, IT’S ALIVE IT’S ALIVE! Go to Youtube and search out Slam poetry and there you have it. The world of performance speech, it has no rules but one: tell a story, suck in the audience. If you don’t you will experience a gloomy traumatic humiliation that you’ll never want to repeat unless you combine the attributes of martyr with poet (not a bad combo, really) and you’re in it for the long haul, you’re there to perfect your art no matter what the price.
Youtube threw up a slam poet named Jesse Parent. The poem he spoke was called “To The Boys Who Will One Day Date My Daughter”. Then, boom! I was off on a delightful two hour marathon of enjoying slam poetry and the only reason it resolved at two hours was because my butt hurt from sitting so long in my malignant chair.
Guess what? The world has changed. I’m old enough to enjoy the backward/shrinking/reverse view of looking through the wrong end of a telescope. e.e. cummings? Allen Ginsberg? Are they hip-hoppers? What do they do?
“You’ve never heard ‘Howl’?”
“Is that a song?”
“No. Probably the most famous poem of modern times.”
“What? Like ‘Niggas In Paris’?”
“Niggas in…uhhhh, I don’t….”
“Daddy! Kanye and Jay-Z.”
I’m already confused. This began as an essay about poetry. “Well, Kanye’s pretty much destroyed himself, and Jay-Z, okay, I can handle Jay-Z, gotta give him some respect.”
“Listen, I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll listen to ‘Howl’ if you’ll listen to ‘Niggas in Paris.”
“Deal. But…let me warn you. Ginsberg wasn’t much of an orator…”
(Ginsberg reads: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness etc etc). He sounds as if he’s been drinking Robitussin for two weeks and just took a snort of cocaine to get through the reading. After listening to Jesse Parent for half an hour the desultory delivery of Ginsburg is pathetic. I listen to the words of the poem. I know it’s a classic. I like it. I’m ambivalent about it. It sounds old fashioned. But maybe that’s just poor Allen’s delivery.
Yes. The world has changed.
A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good. His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv.
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