A debate on how we can write poetry in the 21st Century

What is at stake here?

At least two types of issues:

(1) Aesthetic (Why continue genuflecting to a tradition of vehicles that are insufficient for exploring changing realities and/or inhibit growth?)

(2) Political (In a culture that principally or exclusively values traditional approaches to writing, support, recognition and rewards are bestowed upon writers who adhere to the prevailing mores. Those artists who do not operate within traditional boundaries are typically denied such opportunities.)

What is a reasonable objective?

Ultimately, the best thing that can happen is to broaden the exposure to alternative viewpoints and approaches to perceiving and experiencing the worlds that we encounter.

There is no civilized way to cleanse a given weltanschauung from someone’s psyche. Each writer, each perceiver makes the choice of what elements to consider when finding or assembling art. Many people alive today have been persuaded that the figurative and literal noise of advertising, the horror of deliberately manufactured destruction, and the blasphemy of unbridled aggression, together constitute a reality that definitively replaces its pastoral precedent.

Despite some suggestions that nature-based writing and pastoral reality are outmoded, an argument can be made for their continued viability. While impossible to declare the definitive reality, one can at least espouse the viewpoint that at the very least, competing realities require a delicate balance in perspective. No single viewpoint defines a universe, an age, or a culture.

With that in mind, I certainly would NOT advocate the replacement of one bully  view with another. It is in no way desirable that all writers shift mindlessly to a pseudo-innovative approach that amounts de facto to a disguised unanimity of the sort that many people pursue during their teenaged years. Rather, a widening of exposure and (consequently) of choices is desirable.

What difference will change make?

At least the potential exists for equity in the distribution of funds and attention, including alternative approaches and viewpoints in the creation and appreciation of texts. Presently, the hegemony of a highly personalized descriptive-narrative approach to writing prevails. It seems unlikely that many young writers will even hear of some of the most inventive thinkers and stylists until well beyond their own most productive years. Of equal concern is the fact that practicing writers and artists require the nourishment that other contributors to the art provide. The greater the range of perspectives, approaches, and practices, the more likely that the output of a given artistic age will be varied and inventive. Being ensconced in old views, old forms, and old thinking merely blunts the edge rather than sharpening it.

          © Sheila E. Murphy


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