Poetry is a dying art.
Nobody reads poetry anymore.
Above are quite familiar statements to you if you belong to somewhere inside or close to the writing/reading/publishing/reviewing/academic fraternity. Or you could be someone unrelated too with your own significant online existence because the statements are too common and too frequent there. Or in short, you could be anyone who never saw poetry on its deathbed- ailed and paled, never saw its corpse, never witnessed the cremation but strongly believes that poetry is dying, if not already dead and buried deep. You read it, you hear it; you believe it. You seldom ask anyone, ‘’what makes you think so?’’ Or even if you defend poetry for its life, nobody wants to believe you because the modern day literary notion is that poetry is dead because nobody reads it anymore.
Now let’s rely on logic. If every year there appear a handful of articles here and there in the world declaring the death of poetry sparkling arguments in literary circles over the course of decades, poetry is probably as alive as it has been. Yes, it’s true that the number of mainstream publishers who pick a poetry collection up traditionally is declining. There appears almost no debut poetry collection among the stacked bestsellers in the stores you visit. They are rarely found in the book posts, inner shelves or even in the storeroom–in case you are that lucky poet who won a contract to get your verses printed and one fine day you proudly walked into your favourite brick-and-mortar outlet to see your book nowhere unlike promised, still you do not get disappointed and decide to grab it yourself from the back stock and place it in the light to meet the challenges of cosmopolitan shelf-war. And if you’re a reader, you haven’t probably ordered a poetry collection online along with your favorite authors’ novels since ages unless a friend or relative of yours has self-published one. That’s truth. But the question is how come this situation killed the poetry itself? And the second question is when did you read a piece of poetry last? It was not in your high school English class. It was, most probably, when you logged into your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account or the moment you logged on to a viral web portal or on YouTube. You have seen short verses trending all over the web sprinkled with familiar hash tags – #KhalilGibran, #MirzaGhalib, #SylviaPlath, #JusticeForNirbhaya, #OrlandoShooting, #StandwithParis and what not! – posted, shared and re-shared. They might be there on your timeline too.In fact, you would have never read those profound verses of Rumi unless social media never happened. And you believe poetry is dead, while it’s more alive than ever.
Humans have always been visual but we’re more visual now than ever before, with our attention span dwindled by smartphones to such an extent that recent studies say even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer than us. May be this is the way the world is changing now and change is the only constant. There you’ve your answer. We started writing short verses. We started sharing them on Instagram on different colors and backgrounds accompanied by illustrations and symbols. We started hearing about and then loving Haikus. Didn’t we? If poetry had elite readers once, it’s more universal now and the social media blamed for making us read less is responsible for that. Now you may ask why the selfie age has affected only poetry. No, it’s not. What kinds of novels are sold the most? All those short, unrefined ones written with the sole intention to be turned into a script! Well, if a commercial movie having a chase, fight, and an item dance isn’t made out of something doesn’t mean the something is dead. Here’s the beauty of poetry being alive; that it hasn’t lost its intention as a form of art. Poets are not writing to make money. They are not put down by the mainstream publishers. They write everywhere they can. They write because they feel something and they want to express it. They write because they love to write. There is so much genuineness in that; the kind any practice of art should possess. Now does that mean those passionate writers who want to become nothing but poets have to starve and die answering their inner call? Does that even mean poetry will be remaining off-shelf forever now? No, certainly not. It’s just taking a different route now. Like many online poets who amassed enough readers from around the globe to grab coveted book deals. They make money winning over the declarations of the death of poetry because it’s socially, culturally and emotionally accessible and appealing. It’s soulful, and soul has no death.
Quality-the inseparable trait of anything living or non-living that makes them desirable. While the quality of other forms of literature sold is in question, you might not forget to ask about the quality of off-shelf poetry too as there’s no screening process involved before they’re put to light unlike in the traditional publishing process, and the internet has not just gathered more readers for poetry but has made more number of people poets than ever before. Of course, there are the good ones, the bad ones and literally everyone. May the good ones make the publishers chase them like they already do. May the bad ones keep on improving and ultimately turn wonderful. May everyone stops chanting poetry is dead as if it’s mandatory.
Well, it’s when you said poetry is dead assuming that a hard copy is the only shape of poetry, that Bob Dylan won the Nobel.