Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Importance of Poetry

I got into this conversation at a party a few weeks ago with a high school art teacher. She remarked that what we do is so "important," and I countered that I did not really think of it that way. The main thing I try to get across in the classroom is that poetry is fun. My pop culture juxtapositions -- the Beowulf movie, Outkast lyrics -- are meant to make that point: poetry should not be viewed as this intimidating thing, but as fundamentally the same kind of thing as comics and music and the movies and TV. But then the more I thought about it I thought that of course poetry is important or I would not be so invested in it, but that did not quite feel right. I told someone at lunch, still thinking about it, that maybe the "importance" of poetry is a side effect? Today I found the right formulation for how I feel about this subject reading Oscar Wilde, who is always right about everything, and paraphrasing him:

Poetry is far too important to be taken seriously.

[Wilde said "Life is far too important to be taken seriously" which is also true].


Voice Of The Eagle said...

Yes, Oscar Wilde is ALWAYS right about EVERYTHING.

He should have been Pope.

I'm not kidding.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree that poetry should not be taken seriously at all. I don't understand why people are intimidated by poetry because it is the most unstructured piece of writing a person could write, and you can express anyway you want to without someone saying your doing it the wrong way.

neilshyminsky said...

Toronto puts poetry in its subways cars, but it's exactly the stuff you get in high school - uber-personal, lyrical in the worst sense, and laden with words that seem pulled from a thesaurus. When I was doing my undergrad, one of my professors (Christian Bok, if anyone's read his poetry) remarked that they seemed to actually be 'poetry inoculations' - read some 'poetic' crap and feel more literate. Because you sure as hell don't feel entertained.

Geoff Klock said...

TP -- "it is the most unstructured piece of writing a person could write" I am not sure about that.

Neil -- that is great. I am going to remember that for a while.

dr zombieswan said...

I think Wilde also said something like (too lazy to google the exact phrase) "all bad poetry is in earnest."

And when I get the bad bad BAD poetry submitted to my women's website, lines upon lines of deadly serious stuff about how broken hearted the speaker is, I always think of Wilde. And the bad poetry.

But then, the good poetry is very important, and I really like that quote you use there.

"I have nothing to delcare but my brilliance". I always think that at the airport, but usually, people (those airport folks in ugly uniforms) don't find that funny in the least. So I just smile and nod. Of course I packed my own suitcase. Smile. Nod. :)