3 Replies to ““Why is Modern Poetry so Bad?””

  1. The article you posted actually made me laugh – it sounds just like someone complaining that the kids these days only care about texting and Angry Birds. (Warning: there is about to be a vaguely angry rant, but it’s not anger directed at you, Ethan, just anger at the writer of the Harper’s article.)

    There are always going to be people who don’t like change, but change (especially in writing style – and even more in poetry) is inevitable. It’s also important. It signifies the impact of the changing world on the individual, and considering the increased focus on ‘the individual’ in our world, I think the fact that poets don’t feel the right to speak for the whole of human existence in their poetry is both a reflection of the changing societal norms, and a sign of intelligence and humility in those writers rather than cowardice.

    When you think of the famous poets, “the greats,” they are more often than not white men who had the self entitled gall to speak for everyone because they believed that they represented the majority. Of course, this isn’t true, as so many famous writers were women, or were people of color (or part of another minority/different group) but these differences in identity tend to be glossed over. So much of the narrative in poetry today is about the different experience of the different classes, the different races, religions, sexual orientations; it’s less about finding shared human experience through one person declaring it so, and more about finding the shared experience through the differences and therefore our similarities.

    It was definitely an interesting read, thanks for sharing!

  2. I think what frustrated me most about this article in response to the Harper’s slam on modern poetry is that it thinks that poets are too timid to make any grand statements. We are supposedly afraid to use “we” or make general grand statements about political things. But the writer has it precisely opposite. I’ve read so many contemporary and political poems. It’s hard for me to even separate the two at times–art reflects our culture and politics is included in our culture.
    Supposedly poets “write as though the great public crises were over and the most pressing business we had were self-cultivation and the fending off of boredom”; we’re narcissists and it’s a whole movement that has made modern poetry “bad.” Maybe Edmundson isn’t reading the right type of poetry. Meitner’s Copia was all about consumerism and materialism but it was complicated. Then you have poems like “Two Moths” tackling child prostitution–but I guess that’s self-centered. Maybe Edmundson isn’t just enough of a critical reader of new work.

  3. That was a good read! It’s worth seeing something that makes you angry from time to time. I agree with a bit of Edmundson’s ideas–namely the call for a kind of poetry that speaks to the human experience, and the dismissal of the idea in postmodernism that everything is subjective and can’t speak to an objective reality (to simplify the issue). I get that, and I get the need for art that speaks to our society now, but it baffles me how Edmundson dismisses most modern poetry as unimportant.

    His dismissal of modern poetry is of course short sighted, as we see poetry that speaks directly to broad societal issues and our human experience all the time (you can’t read Copia and still believe Edmundson), but worse than that, his dismissal of introspective, self-questioning, timid poetry reflects, to me, a fundamental misunderstanding to the power of the individual. To write your experiences is to try to convey your vision of the world, or your vision of how the world happens to you–an individual experience still speaks to the human experience, and it’s worth puzzling through a person’s self-doubt to find a meaning, even if it doesn’t leap off the page.

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