hip hop music

May 1, 2003

Speaking of Poetry

The latest issue of Newsweek has opinion piece declaring that poetry is dead:

Poetry Is Dead. Does Anybody Really Care?

It is difficult to imagine a world without movies, plays, novels and music, but a world without poems doesnít have to be imagined. I find it disturbing that no one I know has cracked open a book of poetry in decades and that I, who once spent countless hours reading contemporary poets like Lowell and Berryman, can no longer even name a living poet.

All this started to bother me when heiress Ruth Lilly made an unprecedented donation of $100 million to Poetry Magazine in November. An article published on the Poetry International Web site said critics and poets agreed that the gift "could change the face of American poetry."

Donít these critics and poets realize that their art form is dead? Perhaps not. They probably also donít realize that people like me helped kill it...

Well, I'm glad us hip-hoppers are not the only ones being told that we have gone extinct at least once a month. But this piece is pretty weak to me, for numerous reasons. For one thing I find it strange he devotes an entire piece to measuring poetry's place in the zeitgeist without any mention whatsoever of the spoken word/slam poetry scene, now slickly repackaged as "Def Poetry". Nor does he mention Hip-Hop at all. In fact, it does not appear that anything involving people of color has ever showed up on his radar.

Now, I myself have issues with categorizing hip-hop as a form of poetry (I'd define it as music that often has a poetic element, but not necessarily poetry..I'd probably better make a separate post about that later), and much of the spoken word scene is really more like performance art or stand-up comedy than actual poetry. So if he wanted to argue that Hip-Hop and slam poetry do not meet his poetic standards, that would be one thing. But for him to go through this entire piece without mentioning those movements at all...

Posted by jsmooth995 at May 1, 2003 1:09 PM

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