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Is Poetry Dead?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Iftekhar Sayeed       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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To write the obituary of poetry may seem premature and, indeed, reckless, but most of us cannot recall when we last read any poetry. If an individual has been missing for a sufficient number of years, we safely conclude that he is no longer with us. It would, consequently, be legitimate to infer the demise of poetry from our prolonged estrangement.

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But how do we reconcile its fugitive memory with the fact of its proliferation? For the fact cannot be denied. There’s poetry, poetry everywhere! But like that other plenitude celebrated in a justly famous work, we cannot quaff an iota of this saline outpouring. For the fact of its salinity cannot be denied, either. Most poetry today is indigestible, to vary the metaphor. 

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Therefore, I read with unwonted pleasure in newspapers that there was to be a poetry reading session in the city. My pleasure was transient; the announcement was followed by another, like the death of a baby following its birth. There was to be a poetry workshop! The word ‘workshop’ has a sufficiently industrial connotation to put the lover of craftsmanship on his guard. A workshop denotes a place where there is hammering, chiseling, a liberal use of screwdrivers...output. In economics, when output exceeds demand, inventories pile up and producers cut back on production and lay off workers (a fate that may soon befall the biggest economy of all). But poetry is not economics, and poets are not workers, and poems are not widgets. And, as a poet put it, ‘there’s the rub’!     

It is true that the industrial workshop isn’t what it used to be. The assembly line perfected by Henry Ford has yielded to more creative teamwork. We are told by management gurus that a Ford Mondeo is produced by a team, not a robotic herd individually bolting bits and pieces to produce a car they will never recognise as their own workmanship. But, still, a Mondeo is not a sonnet.    

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The plethora of output that is checked by a lack of demand in the economic sphere has no corresponding mechanism in the poetic. It is almost the definition of a poet that he or she will continue to produce irrespective of the reception, if any, their work invites. Sometimes poets are killed by, or kill themselves because of, the reception, or the lack of it – Keats and Davidson, respectively, spring to mind. However, in the past they were unable to obtrude into the public domain, which was part of their tragedy and enduring charm.       

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Iftekhar Sayeed teaches English and economics. He was born and lives in Dhaka, "Bangladesh. He has contributed to AXIS OF LOGIC, ENTER TEXT, POSTCOLONIAL "TEXT, LEFT CURVE, MOBIUS, ERBACCE, THE JOURNAL, and other publications. "He is also a (more...)
 

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