Poetry Schmoetry

Between 2002 and 2008 the number of American adults who read poetry declined 31% (from 12.1% to 8.3% of the population). This according to the National Endowment for the Arts.

Said C.S. Lewis nearly 50 years ago: “Poetry confines itself more and more to what only poetry can do; but this turns out to be something which not many people want done.” [An Experiment in Criticism (Canto, 1961) p. 98]

4 thoughts on “Poetry Schmoetry

  1. I have to admit I’m one of those persons C.S. Lewis was referring to. Though I love reading classic literature, I am rarely drawn to poetry. I’ll read it if I have to, but find myself thinking “man, this would be so much better if it were in narrative”.

    I admire the poet and recognize his/her literary and creative brillance. Yet I still find poetry verbally excessive and strangly esoteric. It seems disconnected from real life, as if it hovers over reality and observes it without ever landing upon it and taking part in it.

    With that said, my wife loves it.

  2. While I am not aware of much modern poetry that I enjoy, the older stuff is often quite good. Bonar’s stuff in particular comes to mind, along with Cowper and Milton. And of course Poe, Frost, longfellow and even some Byron.

    Not that I don’t enjoy narrative in far greater quantity, but poetry does have its own great niche to fill, and can quite often speak to real life in far more profound ways than simple narrative does – and can even get away with saying things that in narrative might come off with a more nasty and abusive feel that poetry seems to take the edge off of a little while still having much of the same impact.

    Consider Milton’s “ON THE NEW FORCERS OF CONSCIENCE UNDER THE LONG PARLIAMENT”, one of my favorites in this area.

    Because you have thrown off your Prelate Lord,
    And with stiff vows renounced his liturgy
    To seize the widowed whore Plurality
    From them whose sin ye envied, not abhorred,
    Dare ye for this adjure the civil sword
    To force our consciences that Christ set free,
    And ride us with a classic hierarchy
    Taught ye by mere A. S. and Rutherford?
    Men whose life, learning, faith and pure intent
    Would have been held in high esteem with Paul
    Must now be named and printed heretics
    By shallow Edwards and Scotch what d’ye call:
    But we do hope to find out all your tricks,
    Your plots and packing worse than those of Trent,
    That so the Parliament
    May with their wholesome and preventive shears
    Clip your phylacteries, though balk your ears,
    And succor our just fears
    When they shall read this clearly in your charge:
    New presbyter is but old priest writ large.

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