The Accessibility of Poetry

Poetry is gnawing at your insides. It is screeching owls. It is creaking wood of a house –you are alone- at night. It demands your attention. That’s what writing poetry has become for me. I can’t tell you when it started, but I can tell you that I was trying to sleep the other night and words were embroidering themselves into my brain. Threads of blue, and red, and sunrise. I couldn’t stop my mind from envisioning them on a page, in the world. So I resolved to get out of bed, turn my laptop back on, and finish what the words had already started. The words were writing the poem through me; I was just the intermediary.
Before there was even an inkling in my mind that I wanted to dip my pen into poetry, I considered myself a writer of fiction. It always seemed that poetry was something reserved for the elites. That’s probably what happens when you grow up reading Dickinson, Poe, Frost, and Shakespeare in high school English classes. But it couldn’t evade me for long. Once a year a poetry class was offered by one teacher. Taking that class transformed my entire outlook and I became consumed with poetry. Honestly, and unfortunately, I haven’t written a piece of fiction I’ve been very proud of since. The same cannot be said for poetry.
This begs the question: why are younger students seemingly programmed to choose prose over verse? It appears that there is a stigma that if you don’t consider yourself the next Sylvia Plath or E. E. Cummings, then it’s useless for you to try. Might as well write a novel. Maybe it’s a result of the popularity of the modern novel and the accessibility of publishing nowadays. There is a greater chance for profit, the Bestseller lists, the possibility of film adaptations. (Now, let’s talk about film adaptations of poems –that would be intriguing. Making a film of an entire collection!)
Poetry is compelling. It eats at me in a way that I haven’t yet experienced with fiction. Once, it was a staple in popular literary culture. Now it has fallen to what people are viewing as an “elite” few. It’s wrong. It needs to become more accessible to the population; it is imperative that readers cease viewing it with intimidation and feel more confidence in their ability to read and enjoy it.

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