Behind the Return of the Poets by Guest Author, Carly Fierro


Carly Fierro is an aspiring writer who loves animals, spending time outdoors, and traveling. She hopes to someday publish a book – but for now, she’ll settle
for indulging in her love of blogging.

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Not so long ago, poetry was considered a dying art, suitable only for academics and love-struck teenagers. It could be argued–with some certainty–that outside of high school English class, most people’s exposure to poetry was the doggerel found in greeting cards.

Considering the poets of the 18th and 19th century were the rock stars of their day, lack of interest in modern poets suggested poetry was destined for oblivion. Some claimed the art was dying because people no longer read aloud to each other. In a world of high-tech toys and instant gratification, poetry was delegated to the dusty past. Or so it was thought.

Online Poetry

The very technology thought to be killing poetry has been instrumental in a quiet revival. The Internet gives poets opportunity to share their work with a wide audience (many of whom are searingly critical–online poets require a thick skin).

Every month the British-based Poetry Archive site boasts more than one million page views from 125,000 users. Recognizing the importance of the spoken word to poetry, the archive offers recordings of poets reading their own work.

Slam! The Art of Performance Poetry

Listening to recordings of poems, while delightful, still maintains a distance between the poet and his or her audience. The 1990s saw the genesis of slam poetry events, combining performance art, poetry and competition.

Slam poetry renewed public interest in poetry as performance art. Sure, the nature of slam poetry angered some academics who had firm views on what constitutes poetry, but historically poetry has always shaken up the status quo. Poets like Byron and Shelley have always annoyed the establishment.

Slam poems very much carry on the tradition of poetry as a galvanizing, political medium. Over the course of a slam event, you might hear poems focused on politics, racism, alcohol rehab and gender discrimination. Slam poets are angry, thoughtful, funny and sad.

A slam is a competitive event, although the event is more about sharing poetry than “winning.” Poets are given three minutes to recite their work, and points are deducted if the poet exceeds the time limit. No props, musical instruments or costumes are allowed; the poet uses body language and the spoken word to present his or her poem.

Randomly selected audience members judge the event by assigning poets points for performance and content. Poets may compete as individuals or in teams.

Some argue that a three-minute time limit restricts poets, but working within limitations has long been an accepted part of poetry. Haikus and sonnets, for instance, must adhere to strict formats, but this in no way detracts from the power of the poems.

Perhaps it’s the thrill of sharing poems driving the popularity of slam. Perhaps it’s the sense of excitement and competition. Or perhaps it’s something deeper. Poetry is one of the world’s oldest art forms, connecting us to our history and our future. Perhaps we need poems. Despite a few shaky decades, it seems poetry, contrary to popular belief, remains alive and well.

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