Everyone’s a poet. But nobody reads poetry.
So says Joseph Bednarik in Poet’s & Writers Magazine (May/June 2006 issue) when he wrote that the “production of creative writing far exceeds consumer demand” and that “accredited MFA programs in creative writing…proliferate, while…literary reading is in steady decline.”
So why start this? Why produce a product fewer and fewer people care to consume?
In short, to help change the paradigm.
Of all non-graphic reading forms, poetry should appeal more to the generations of Americans raised on short takes, sound bites and music videos. Poetry seems designed for today’s shorter attention spans. Few other written literary forms convey an image or an idea or an emotion in such little space.
Is the problem our art form itself as a vehicle of expression, unable to compete with more visual arts? Or with our ability as poets to drive it?
This is what I seek to explore in pursuit of a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Poetry.
My Own Poetry
I write the poetry I like to read: Poetry that is based in reality, but touched with science, the unnatural, the supernatural, or a pleasant mix of this trinity.
Since the early origins of storytelling, we have held a special place for mysteries we do not understand. I enjoy poetry that perpetuates this tradition of describing the unknown, which over time, progresses into the known. We no longer believe the sun and moon are gods that battle for possession Earth’s attention in the sky every night. Or do we? Is there something in each of us that desires, or at least understands, the need to see something deeper in Nature than simple mechanics? That if even it is only gravity that tethers the Earth in its flight around the sun, that such power in of itself is a force of immeasurable imagination and creativity?
I’ll be the first to admit my work requires maturing. I am only just beginning to grasp how to use metaphor and simile in the language I write with. I seek guidance in learning how to structure poems with a beginning, a middle, and an end; to layer poems with not just as a complete thought, but as thoughts within a thought. Images within images.
Pundits recommend writing within a single theme or using a single voice to increase the odds of publication. I find this very difficult to do in practice and seek help to present an idea or character – to tell a story – through several poems.
Finally, I want to study how to deliver poetry to a modern audience. Traditional delivery, in book form, magazines, and readings, are giving way to websites and podcasts. How does this impact the poem? The poet? Shakespeare had his Rose. How would he have perceived our modern tools? How would he have chosen to deliver his masterpieces today?
Answers to these questions are what I hope to discover on my journey through a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry. Answers that I will ultimately use to pose new questions to future poets and readers of poets someday as a teacher of the Arts.
The Future is Our Readers
If we poets continue to deliver a product that no one is interested in, we may find our art form continue to fade and eventually to pass. It is up to us to promote the joy of reading that is essential to our craft.
Part of this task requires that poets set the example and do as Bednarik suggests by becoming avid readers.
The other – in my opinion, equally important – part is to write poems that ensure that our readers will enjoy our efforts as they do listening to music, or watching television. My wife put it best when she once confided to me: “I like your poetry, especially if it’s about me.” I believe every reader harbors this secret. We poets have the gargantuan responsibility of making every reader feel that our poems are about him or her, or relates to their life in some way. This, by far, is the more difficult task; one that I’m not certain I will ever be able to accomplish although I will do my best to play a part.
Otherwise, there’s always Bednarik’s solution to harness the growing number of creative writing producers: That readers begin to charge a fee for their time. “Reading group ready to devour your [work]. $250. Rants and raves extra.”
The future of our art is in our hands. Now, how to put it in the hands of our readers?