The State of Poetry

reading poetry

Anything article you read on poetry today seems to touch on what is seen as the elephant in the room, is it dead? The fact that any conversation surrounding it must eventually end up on the question of poetry’s mortality, or whether it has been replaced by another medium like rap, does not bode well for the it.

A recent post by Jennifer Schuessler in the New York Times asks the ”Is Poetry Dead?” question. The article goes on to say 45 states and even some cities have official poet laureates, arguing essentially that the existence of poets and poetry means that it still exists, but is existence, life? Sure, in the literal definition.

The question of whether social media is the culprit and the reason for its slow, diminishing relevance is another question that needs to be answered. Social media seems to be the go-to root of any problem that exists in our society. Such cynicism is not productive and is certainly not going to rid the world of it. Social media is enhanced communication, and should be a platform for poetry. Juan Felipe Herrera, California’s poet laureate, has utilized the platform to promote, “The Most Incredible and Biggest Poem On Unity in the World”. A poem by Juan Felipe Herrera is included below.

Perhaps the most interesting of arguments of its transformation comes less from proponents of poetry and more from the defenders of rap music. But aside from a few non-mainstream artists it’s difficult to call that poetry or even music for that matter. But that rare instance where the lyrics are provocative, thoughtful, and encourage change, poetry would be lucky to have the comparison.

Is it poetry dead? Surely not. Here is a poem for you:

“In the Cannery the Porpoise Soul

BY JUAN FELIPE HERRERA

In the cannery the porpoise soul
& the shadow fins of spirit boats lie awake
the hundred hooks & flying reels
one harpoon
& the silver fleshing in the nets
the mayor is waiting/counting scales
dreaming new quotas & tuna coasts
(under the table blood & payrolls
swim to the shores on a crucifix of oil)
in the cannery the porpoise soul
steals a dagger for the engines throat
tuna fins etch an X
on the green stone of the ships floor
there are documents with worker sweat
files & rolled sleeve salt
a spear of sails & anchor years
(lost)
inside the shoulders & against the ropes
(somehow)
a policy gunned the waves back
before the porpoise sea was born”