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Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 12:42 am

Listen to the music

Making poetry more accessible


A recently posted article by Austen Rosenfeld, "Why Billy Collins is America's Most Popular Poet," points out pertinent thoughts about poetry today. Mainly, has academia hijacked the art of poetry or is it alive and well but mutilated in the public sector?

But we’re missing the point.

The poetry world has never provided much direction for folks. Besides forms such as the haiku, sestina or villanelle (and those have pretty much been tucked away in great, great-grandma’s trunk), folks have been left in poetry chaos. They see poetry more like work they didn’t bargain for after high school or college. And people who actually like it, well, many take what they can get or what they stumble upon.

So let’s clear up the confusion.

Simply, let’s give poetry a few categories. Think in terms of music categories, from classical music to heavy metal, country and folk music, etc.

So, here it is world --  Poetry 101:

1.        The stuff professors like and push that we read on the page or from a book or at their book readings – that’s classical poetry.

2.        The stuff folks recite for audiences live, whether impromptu or not, sometimes called spoken word or slam poetry – that’s punk or rap poetry (not to be confused with rap music).

3.        The stuff you read on the page or hear in public that’s foul of language or subject matter and revels in its rough edges and professors hate – that’s rock poetry (think Charles Bukowski).

4.        Leonard Cohen, Rod McKuen – folk poetry.

5.        And Billy Collins, like Robert Frost before him -- they cross genres – as all the most popular artists do. Folks love them because their poetry is classical poetry and folk poetry and country poetry, all wrapped up in one.

There, isn’t that better. Hope this helps a little.  

If you’re a fan or not of Billy Collins, or any poem or poet, perhaps it only says – who you are – and with so many different perspectives -- what does that say really? Only ... different strokes for different folks.

Contact astienstra@illinoistimes.com.


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