Poetry Social media, education and poetry

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The mystery of this Trinity is for me solved. It simply does not work!

In England, there are a plethora of poets, all tweeting away and posting poems online. This must certainly be a good thing, one should think. So, where’s the rub? In this land from where no traveller ever returns, the social media, appreciation of poetry is reduced to ‘likes’ smiley faces and stars. There should be much more to it, and there is. I will not mention who, but I can say where, to give an example, I saw a poet with about 7,000 (!!!) online followers; a beautiful man, with many women singing his praise online every time he posts one of his, yes, appallingly badly written poems, that could as well have been written by a five-year-old: we are at the level of ‘your eyes are as beautiful as the stars’ and ‘I love you more than the whole world’ in a never-ending series of poems that only serves to increase the sales of sodium bicarbonate. Despite having so many fans and poems, this poet has never published a single book, which is a relief.

Similarly, I have seen an acclaimed poet post an impressive poem on a website that prides itself on having millions of poems on it, mostly of the kind one reads on toilet walls, and guess what, the readers gave it 3.5 stars. If only they knew that the poet in question is regarded as one of the best living poets, and maybe one day will even win a Nobel. How will they feel when they realise they gave the poem a low rating because they are not capable of reading poetry? The poem was soon removed.

Here comes in the third entity of our Trinity, the one that lets the other two down: education. Speaking from a British perspective, poetry is basically taught as a hobby over here. No reference to teachers, but to the approach that forgets that poetry should be an exceptional use of language, and that is what makes it poetry, not the theme. A poem can be about toe nails, or nothing at all, a poem is a poem if it uses language in a way that creates an effect that is beyond language itself. Poetry is Art, dear readers, not a tweet. But in today’s world, where everything is fast and the reader is egocentric, some of us forget that if we don’t understand a poem, then it’s because it is a good one, but we have lost the patience to dwell on a few words for a long time that poetry requires, and prefer to look for the easy, the plain, the platitude that gives us a split second of selfish gratification.

It is time education stepped in and taught poetry for what it is, not what we want it to be.

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