Posts Tagged ‘T.S. Eliot’

Five Reasons Why People Don’t Read Poetry

August 1st, 2010

  • T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and their descendants, who are legion, have convinced everyone that, if you don’t “get” what the poem is “about,” it is your fault for not being as smart and sensitive as the poet.  You might be up to song lyrics.  Some song lyrics.
  • High school teachers, college professors, and those impressed by such people have  spread the idea that a poem is “about” something that it is your duty to “get” or you are not as smart and sensitive as you should be and you will be graded accordingly.
  • Poets, content to live in the little ghetto of the personal lyric, intimidated by the popularity of that modern fad the novel, have given up on the idea that poems can and should tell stories and discuss ideas and convey information and talk about things that people are interested in hearing about and, generally, do everything that prose does, only differently.  So we are stuck with poets showing us how smart and sensitive and verbally dexterous they are.
  • Academics to whom poetry is a means of pursuing professional advancement and obtaining intellectual and social status, from which the common run of mankind is excluded, have convinced people that poetry is a specialized taste for the intellectually and socially superior, best left to professionals.
  • Critics have purveyed all of the above, and also the falsehood that poetry is medicinal, that it somehow makes you a better person or spiritually enriches your life or is an indispensable accoutrement of the educated soul.  Yuck.  They also spread the falsehoods that poetry “should be” this or that way  (e.g., “good poems rhyme” or “rhyme is dead”), or poetry has this or that special subject matter differentiating it from all other arts (e.g., “the subject of all great poetry is death”), in short that poetry is anything other than a particular means of verbal communication suitable to talking about anything in the world.  Since the critics are clueless, there’s nobody to point you to the good stuff.