Such has been the response to the original post, that rather than respond to each comment, I’ve written another post bringing in other poets varied and valid takes on this subject in order to make their views more accessible to all.
Nandita felt that to appreciate poetry you need to have a heightened sense of perception and depth of understanding that is not usually necessary for say, a popular novel, and that the attraction of this form of writing is just that, it’s easy, the reader is in a sense spoon fed. This struck a chord with me. My wife, who has a law degree, and her close friends who are all university educated have a penchant for popular novels, (my wife loves ‘B’ movies too !) but literally curl their nose up at poetry . They use a telling phrase in light of Nandita’s comment ‘I just don’t get it’. The speed at which they go through novels of this kind is astounding and when I tease them in good natured banter over their preference for such literature and their dislike of poetry they defend their choice by saying ‘it’s escapism’. I get their meaning but is not any enjoyable activity ‘escapism’, a means to rest body and mind from the toils and troubles of life? There are of course novels that demand more of their readers such as Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ or Orwell’s ‘Animal farm’. Yet even these novels, do not have, as Nandita says the nuances and literary complexities of most poems. For most people then, poetry is just too demanding and therefore ceases to become pleasurable. I guess it may be also related to personality types. Going back to the ‘escapism’ tag, I’ve always relaxed by seeking knowledge, learning, stimulating my mind to escape, as opposed to shutting it down. Whilst reading in bed together my wife, she would be reading the latest Dan Brown novel and I the history of the Jacobite revolts 1715-45 ! Horses for courses, each to his own,
Lynn made the valid comment, which branches from the above, that a great deal of people say they don’t have the time to read and/or interest. This is significant, and could account for the popularity of mass market novels. They are bought on a whim, and ‘dipped’ into now and then, scanned rather than read, because really, there is little more interest in them than in poetry. Lynn also draws and paints and commented that she feels that this and her writing come from two different places. Lynn’s take marries in with both the original post and the paragraphs above.
Miriam took things in a different direction . I agree whole heartedly when she asks ‘should we be the tools to awaken the emotional intelligence in others’ . My view is, that is what a poem should do, ‘awaken !’ not just emotional intelligence, though can there be a more worthy goal, but intelligence and imagination as well. Miriam also made the comment that she ‘feels images’ as she reads . I myself would describe it in this way. I experience at times a heightening of senses, where intuition is spot on, I feel euphoric, and the world is vivid and everything wondrous. There are certain circumstances that facilitate this ‘switch throwing’, reading poetry is just one. ( The downside is I can be awake for days ).
Roland took a similar view to Nandita. Roland says he agrees that poetry’s appeal is limited by its use of language but also by the need to interpret that language. Very often we have to delve deeply into the words and struggle to get at the meaning and emotions behind them. He goes on to say that we then make judgement, rightly or wrongly, on its worth and value to us as individuals. That again may be it in a nutshell, for most people it has little worth and value as they get nothing for it.
Davy has brought yet a different angle to the debate . Picking up on academia and the publishing world . Davy says he wonders if it is something to do with poetry being hijacked by academia and publishing houses who only publish poets who can access and write their code. Davy has a point, both these institutions are understandably self-serving and therefore must surely be driving the poetry that is available. And of course the less that is available, the less exposure, less public awareness, less sales and round again in a self-fulfilling cycle.
I think things are changing, there was a recent series of ads featuring poetry readings and John Cooper Clarke has been on a quiz show and I know of a few brilliant, undiscovered, poets around the world !
Thank you for reading/commenting .