Ah, National Poetry Month. My only lament is that it comes but once a year. For 43,200 mind-altering minutes, our entire country, in a rare display of intellectual and aesthetic unity, basks in the often-tragic, always-confused glory of overly dense prose cut up into lines. “Look!” they say. “Look at the sheer zoo-like variety of poets one might read this month!” And a zoo it is.
First, there are the Form poets with their dainty little rhymes and windshield-wiper meter. See how “cold” and “gold” sound alike? How cute! It’s enough to make me want to start a pig farm in Vermont and ruin my birches with all that dadgum swinging.
And look over there! It’s the New Formalists, clinging with desperation to rhyme as the last remaining legitimization of their grossly dislocated sense of culture, despite a cunning distaste for the idea of a reader ever noticing said rhyme in the first place. What adorable failure!
And over there are the Free Verse writers, offering line after dreary line of monotone spreadsheet prose possibly capable of suggesting, in their own marijuana-addled subconscious, some kind of half-formed or malformed thought that might or might not have a greater or lesser philosophical (or political?) meaning for the grand scheme of humankind — who the hell knows? If you want to find out, first you have to solve the riddle of “what the f— is going on” — it’s Boggle for the insecure! Everybody wins!
And then there are the Spoken Word poets. With whom I will not even bother.
Yes, sir, there are poems about sadness, poems about war, poems about hope, poems about love — even poems about other poems. And yet, one thing will remain consistent. Every other line will talk about some kind of nature crap for no reason. If you get stuck while you’re writing your masterpiece, don’t take the fool’s road of trying to make sense. Just throw in a couple ducks or a garden! I do it, and I’m published!
The fact is that every culture has its high-water mark of elitist crud. Right now, it’s poetry. Maybe in 10 years people will start caring enough about opera again to pretend it’s important.
Tyler Theofilos is a senior in Silliman College. He is senior editor of the Yale Literary Magazine.
This column is part of the News’ op-ed page tribute to Poetry Month.