There was a time when poetry played a central role in our civilization and culture. Today it has taken the backstage. It occupies an obscure corner in our society. No one knows the foremost poets of today. The classics still have their audience and their aura of mysteriousness and attraction but poetry as a living model of our cultural experience has died.
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Today poetry is not expressive enough. It does not stir emotions as it used to. It isn't deep and pregnant with meaning. It isn't something on which one can ponder for hours. If deeper subjects of human reality are discussed at all, they are expressed in such a vague manner that they say nothing new and give no deeper insight. Poetry these days leaves us with a feeling that something is lacking. Something those classic poems and even poems from 30 or 40 years ago had.
Ironically poetry today is being done on a scale never seen before in history. Thanks to social media and the internet almost everybody is a poet. But the quality of such content is very low. You will be hard-pressed to find something good.
The Decline of Poetry
One of the main reasons that poetry has fallen so much is the amount of leash we have given to poetic expression. Almost anything written in English is considered poetry today. There is no concrete standard or form of any kind whatsoever. Prose that will be considered horrible can perfectly be passed on as poetry and nobody will bat an eye.
There was a time when poetry was considered one of the most difficult forms of expression. Now it is the easiest (and lamest) form of expression in the English language.
Good Poetry is difficult to write
Today people think that writing poetry is easy. Writing lame poetry is easy no doubt. But to write a good poem of even a few lines is hard. You need as much effort, dedication, and practice as writing a good 1000 to 1500 words article or prose piece. And even then sometimes you are unable to write a good poem. Because poetry is like a genius. It touches all of us but few are born with it. True poets are a rare breed.
Poetry is a symphony where words and feelings are in synchronization. It transports you into another world. It deepens and enhances your worldview. It brings colors and life to lifeless and colorless things.
Great Poems need a Lifetime
You might be thinking that most poems are not like that. Even most classical poems fail to convey such a feeling of wonder. And you will be right. Only masterworks from the great poets of old convey such feeling; Masterworks, which were made from the bone, blood, and sinew of the great poets. Great works of poetry demand everything from a poet. His work, his life, his time, and all of his passion. Only then can a poet kindle in himself a flame that remains alight in his poem for centuries.
Who in this modern age is willing to give so much to poetry? Who even thinks of it? Certainly no one. Academic poets write for promotions and degrees. Others write poetry in their free time without putting in much effort. We are finding ourselves in a difficult conundrum. On one side of the coin, there are people with skill and dedication but no passion. On the other, there are people with a passion but no skill and dedication. We need both to have a good poet.
Importance of Great Poets
Poets are vital to civilization. Without Great poets like Dante, Shakespeare, Rumi, Tagore, Iqbal, whole civilizations are voiceless. Poets are the voice of a nation. They express what seems inexpressible. The civilizations feel complex emotions during their journey but they can't voice these emotions even to themselves. They need Great Poets to do that.
The Importance of Great Poetry
Great poetry is the highest faculty of man. His highest possible transcendence. Nothing can reach it. Neither science nor physics or other vistas of knowledge. Because poetry is the highest expression of language. And language is the base and the highest epitome of civilization. Without language, there is no civilization.
Importance of Expression and Poetry
Our modern lives seem more ordered than life a few hundred years ago. It is more comfortable, more peaceful, and more luxurious. Our systems are working better than ever. But the individual units of our systems have become hollow. We as humans have become hollow from the inside.
The crowed violence like mob lynching and gang rapes, the mass killings perpetrated by single individuals, and many other similar events are happening all around us.
One of the reasons for such violence is the lower expression power of our present age. (There are other reasons. No doubt.) Our educators and intellectuals want to dumb down literature and arts. "Everything should be simple. Art should be so simple that common Joe could understand it"
But such people can't tell you that Shakespeare can't be dumbed-down. Goethe and Dante cant is dumbed-down. Tagore or Iqbal can't be dumbed-down. And similarly, if a contemporary poet wants to tackle those subjects that haunt us, the language he uses can't be dumbed-down.
When language is dumbed down, civilization comes to a lower level of existence. A level that is more close to animals. And then unconsciously people react like animals.
The crowd has their grievances for sure (Like all of us have.) But they don't know how to express their grievances. The crowd remains silent. A fire burning inside each of them. A fire of hulk-like hate fueled by family grievances, systematic persecutions, and injustices. And then one day they find a way to express that hate on the outside. A girl, a boy, or a man from another group becomes the object of expression for their frustration. People need to express themselves and language and poetry can only give people civilized expression.
Free Speech and Poetry
We hear much talk about free speech. What no one talks about is that expression is vital to free speech. Without people knowing, how to express themselves, language dumbs down to threats, bad jokes, loud swearing, and battle cries. (Very similar to the noise that animals make.) Such free speech doesn't add anything to a healthy environment.
Poetry is to be felt first
We need to make our language more nuanced and sophisticated again. Only poetry can do that. People say great poetry is difficult. What they don't understand is that great poetry is not to be understood first. It is to be felt first. And for most people just feeling great poetry is enough. It is for the experts or artists themselves that understanding is needed. And such people are a minority.
It is the need of the hour to take poetry seriously again. Some rules must be established. There should be a clear-cut criterion for good and bad poetry. Old forms need to be revitalized in our culture and new forms which can express modern thought more efficiently needs to be invented. Not everything is to be left for the audience to decide. Prose has a standard why, not poetry?