Sometimes I forget why I love poetry. In writing forums and reading for literary magazines, I encounter a lot that’s puerile and repetitive, themed around love and middle-class kids feeling oppressed and one-dimensional nature imagery. I encounter a lot of forced rhyme scheme and strange meter and badly-punctuated prose thinly disguised.
Then I read articles like this, and am reminded that poetry can be protest, can be a defiant shriek of identity. I am reminded that hip hop is a form of poetry.
I am reminded that I have been awed by Howl and quietly enchanted by Archy and Mehitabel. Robert Service’s Cremation of Sam McGee was the first piece I ever memorized, and stuck in my mind so well that when I first experimented with cryptography, it was the key I used. I am reminded that Edgar Allan Poe’s The Bells was one of the first things in any form to make me aware of the sublime perfection of careful word choice.
So why do we let ourselves read and, worse, write poetry that’s easy to consume? Shutting ones brain off to be entertained is what romance novels are for. I understand poetry as expression of self, as exposition of experience, and it exists for me in the same realm as most biographies: good to have on hand for later anthropologists. I am afraid I am an inveterate thrill-seeker, though, so I want something that fires the imagination or subverts my understanding. I fell in love with poetry that moved me so my heart beat with its meter, and I want more.