Is Poetry Dead?

Originally published in the Dickinson County News

It’s a sad, sad day in the life of creative writers everywhere.

Newsweek columnist Bruce Wexler has declared poetry dead – saying people in today’s lifestyle have no time for the artform amidst the claims of television, narrative novels and Web surfing.

Wexler wrote poetry’s obituary for a recent issue of Newsweek magazine. He says poetry has been ill for a long time and died in the last decade.

“Society was changing in a way that did not favor the reading of poetry,” he says. “By the 90s, it was all over.”

Wexler points out that people who doubt this statement should consider that poetry is the only artform where the number of people creating it is far greater than the number of people appreciating it.

Certainly many appreciators of poetry will try to create it as well, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I do wonder where he did his survey.

Certainly it wasn’t on the beaches of Okoboji, where poetry is not only read, but shared in attempts to win hearts.

Such a survey couldn’t have been done in our nation’s booming coffeehouses, where poetry readings have become a regular feature.

It surely wasn’t in our regional Barnes and Noble bookstore, where one usually can’t find a place to sit near the poetry section.

Survey or no survey, in the world of Bruce Wexler, people don’t read poetry.

“No one I know has cracked open a book of poetry in decades,” he says.

Wexler admits that he can no longer name a living poet, despite a past love of the writing style, and says the fast-paced, “Me Generation,” get-rich-quick lifestyles through the past few decades have killed his love for poetry – and since his love for the artform is dead, every one else must, of course, feel the same way.

“I am part of a world that apotheosizes the trendy, and poetry is about as untrendy as it gets.”

Trendy? I wonder if Mr. Wexler is aware that “trendy” isn’t such a trendy word anymore?

I could find a crowd of high schoolers who would find reading poetry more trendy than reading Wexler’s column. Or I could find you a half dozen clubs of poetry lovers just in northwest Iowa.

So, maybe these aren’t the “trendy” people, and maybe reading poetry isn’t something “cool” people are supposed to do. But I don’t think the true appreciators of poetry and art would be so concerned about being cool anyway.

Wexler’s poetical declaration of death landed on my desk through a fellow poetry lover. I know we’re not cool or trendy, but we are thinking about sending Mr. Wexler a letter inviting him to meet a couple young people who have cracked open a few dozen poetry books this year.

“I really do believe that poetry is the highest form of writing,” contradicts Wexler toward the end of his column.

That’s right Wexler, it “is,” and still is. Poetry is not dead.