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Monday, July 28, 2008

Does anyone teach poetry anymore?

I was channel surfing and discovered a program on BookTV of some High School Poetry Awards. I think they were Bay Area specific, but regardless, I was curious, so I tuned in to see what it was about...and was surprised to learn that I wasn't going to see/hear poetry of artistic merit or of any sort of significance at all.
Poetry is hard for a reason. I don't write a lot of poetry because I tend to have issues grasping the imaginative nature of it (it's far different from writing fiction due to its limiting nature and necessity for deepness despite that). Now, I'm not knocking on an individual's attempt at art, nor on one's take on art. This is part of the argument between literary fiction and genre fiction (you know, that whole deal where literary fiction is real fiction and genre fiction is artless dribble, which we are all well aware is a load of crap). The thing about poetry is that if one wants to be taken seriously when writing it, they have to treat it like it is a real art form. "Roses are red" is not considered a serious poetic work, but a clever little rhyme that is somewhat infectious (sort of like tuberculosis, since, for some reason, it just keeps going and going, always infecting new minds, being read, and adapted to the modern world). Poetry that wants to be, well, something of value needs to deal with issues on a deeper level, especially if you're attempting to play it off like it is a serious piece of work.
So, boy was I surprised when the first girl went up to read her poem (or second girl, or whichever girl, as I'm not sure if she was the first to read during the program) and began reading an updated version of "roses are red" that basically was a rendition of "boys act like boys" and "girls act like girls" in words just as simplistic, but without any sort of rhyming or structure to indicate the artist had actually thought about what they were writing. Yes, that is a long sentence. Needless to say, after hearing about half of a stanza, I tuned out. The words were dull, pointless, and without anything meaningful to them.
This made me wonder whether or not poetry is still taught in school. It's hard to believe that schools have degraded this much in representing the arts to their students that no good high school poets exist. I know several poets who are exceptional and of a young age, but I've not had the opportunity to ask them whether they are at all familiar with poetry as a literary form (as in having learned about it both historically and literally, with clever puns included).
Has there been a significant change in school English courses--in the U.S. or elsewhere--in which students are no longer being given a thorough look into the great works of English language literature? I'm curious. What do you think about this? Are the arts suffering in the youth demographic?

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1 comment:

  1. I've been taught how to analyze poetry, but not how to write it. And after learning to analyze, I'm no longer interested in writing, since I can't begin to wrap my head around the complexities involved.