Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Note on Contemporary Poetry

Contemporary poetry started in the early 1950s. It began because a bunch of American poets got together and started to write in a contemporary vein. This continued strong until the late 1960s, when contemporary poetry ended. During its heyday, contemporary poetry was considered very popular.

Readers liked to read contemporary or hear it read by recognized contemporary poets. The appeal of contemporary poetry is simple to understand. It appeals to everyone’s enjoyment of the 1950s and 60s.

Robert Lowell is the greatest of contemporary poets. He wrote about Robert Lowell and what Robert Lowell felt. The great contemporary lady poets Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath also wrote about what they felt. Plath wrote about what Plath felt and Sexton wrote about what Sexton felt, respectively. Poems cannot be made about what Plath thinks about Lowell or Lowell  about Sexton. John Berryman tried but it did not work.

John Berryman was a contemporary poet even so. Like all contemporary poets, he went to college. College is where contemporary poets came from. Even though poets still go to college, they are no longer contemporary. Contemporary poets have disappeared just as mysteriously as the residents of the Roanoke colony.

Nowadays, poets just write poetry and that’s that. Today’s poets cannot be contemporary because they did not spend enough time in the 50s and 60s. It was okay to suddenly discover W. B Yeats in the 50s. Nowadays, if you suddenly discover W. B. Yeats, you are surprising no one. Even though Yeats was a weirdo and probably took opiates, reading him will surprise no one. Same goes for Rimbaud and a host of other strange foreign poets. Sadly, the day of the contemporary poem (and contemporary poet) is over.

There are those who wish to bring back contemporary poetry. These people live in universities and have their own issues. If you feel an urge to write contemporary poetry, read the works of the contemporary poets mentioned in this report. You will find that they have written all the contemporary poetry that anyone needs. Instead of writing contemporary poetry, try writing haiku. Haiku is a poetic form just as timeless as frogs, apple blossoms, and snowflakes. You cannot go wrong with haiku.

The Invention of Poetry

Poetry was invented in the early 18th Century, somewhere in England. It is not known who invented poetry, though it is known that John Milton did NOT. William Shakespeare cannot receive credit for inventing poetry either, even though his stuff looks like poetry. Remain cautious when trying to determine if certain literary productions are poetry. Sonneteers, poetasters, and the like will try to fool you every time.

Of course Poetry first developed in England—where else would it begin?—but other lands saw attempts—all failures—to create this means of transportation. England, though, had the right admixture of larks, dew, eternal rocks, skiey peaks, and such to propel the poetic mind into fevered scribbling. So England can claim the invention of poetry, which is great news for the English.

England’s poets futzed around for the first years, trying to make some awesome poetry. They made poetry all right—recent tests have proven this—but little of their production amounted to what you would call awesome. Not until the early 19th Century did writing pals John Keats, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, Leigh Hunt, and a few nameless authors really started to kick out the jams, poetry-wise.

The greatest of these poets is Leigh Hunt. He wrote “Jenny Kissed Me” and spent time in jail. You will be disappointed to learn that the Jenny of the poem was a child, and the poem has nothing to with unrequited love, but it is still a great poem. The poem proves that a poet can write poems like this, if you have the requisite talent.

John Keats, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron were also great English poets. This is proven by how they all died young. Dying young is a dead giveaway. So to speak.

John Keats loved Grecian urns and nightingales. If you are reading a poem that mentions nightingales or Grecian urns, you are probably reading Keats. Usually the name of the author of a poem is included with the poem, if you really need to know the name. It is true that a poem authored by John Keats is sure to be a winner.

Percy Shelley was big into larks—he basically started the whole lark movement in poetry—and Lord Byron (real name: George) liked roving. As much as he liked roving, he apparently decided to give it up. These poets garnered great fame and whatnot in their unfortunately short careers.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was the first lady poet. Although Keats and Shelley tended toward sickliness, it was Browning who successfully brought the full neurasthenic protocol to the life of poets. Elizabeth wrote the first mushy poem ever. You know: “How do I love thee? / Let me count the ways.” Elizabeth was married to a great poet in his own right, Robert Browning. Robert wrote these stirring lines that will live long in the minds of those people who remember them: “Riding along, fifty score strong / Great hearted gentlemen singing this song.”

Near the end of the 19th Century, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote “The Charge of the Light Brigade”. This is a great poem. It begins “Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward”, and goes on from there.

Tennyson was pretty much it for poets in England at the time. If you wanted poetry, you had to look to America. American poetry did not start until the 19th Century,  there was zero poetry in the colonies before then. Then Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson came along, and really put America on the poetry map.

Whitman learned early that technique without inspiration means nothing. He proceeded to throw technique completely out the window and rely on inspiration. The result of this is that he wrote so many great poems that it is just not funny. A prime example is the one called “O Captain My Captain”. You’d figure that it would be about a sailor, but it is really about Abraham Lincoln! This poem really gets to you. See what I mean about it being just not funny?

Emily Dickinson was the first and undoubtedly best lady poet that America produced. She liked to look at normal things in a creepy way. It took a while for her to become famous, but when she did, it was something. Women need heroes too, you know.

There was a lady poet in England who was almost like Emily Dickinson. Her name was Christina Rossetti. She was born five days before Dickinson and wrote about goblins. England is still proud to have her as one of its lady poets.

A lot of great poetry got wrote in the 20th Century, mostly by Americans. T. S. Eliot is a great poet—you can hardly understand what he is on about!—but he just pretended to be English. He was from Missouri. He really got the movement going of making poetry that makes no sense. Ezra Pound is another poet who started doing that stuff.

Nowadays, everybody and his uncle writes poetry. We can actually thank Japan for this. A poetic form called the haiku developed in Japan. It was a great thing but no one in Japan knew how to make a poem using the form. It was not until public school students in America were introduced to the haiku form that it really took off. Now anyone can write a poem, no sweat.