I am currently reading some very assiduous, profound, and implacably thoughtful poetry that will likely have little to no effect on the modern human predicament. And I know I’ve already lost a few of you, because I just used the Oxford Comma. I even capitalized its proper name.
Let me say, first, that there is nothing, necessarily, wrong with it. I mean the assiduous poetry, not the Oxford Comma. However, I’m concerned that this poetry is passing for the Pulitzer, while equally good and potentially much more helpful verse is being ignored. Or at least sidelined.
Listen to Trump. Listen to Clinton, for that matter. Listen to FOX, or CNN, for God’s sake. The world is awash in got-danged seriousness. Everyone is so concerned and righteously indignant, that the whole human race is in danger of going down with its earthly ship. And, for some reason, many poets believe that to respond with much of the same, will somehow stand out in all that noise?
So, the academics obfuscate, and the slammers pontificate. And all the while, I’m quoting Bukowski in my head: “The libraries of the world yawn themselves to sleep.” That’s not exact, but it’s close.
Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and even Dante, among others, also tried to warn artists about the dangers of taking themselves too seriously. Mark Twain, specifically, said, “Humor is tragedy plus time,” seeming to suggest that laughter is at least one good way through pain.
Therefore, I want to drive home what is a tired chestnut for those who know me…
To claim that poets who are accessible and occasionally make people smile—or, heaven forbid, even laugh out loud—are writing “light verse,” is a grave and dangerous miscalculation.
It might be that they are in fact—and, yes, this will be an assiduous and implacably thoughtful thought—applying their gift to one of the last remaining hopes for the world. Laughing at absurdity.
That Donald Trump is steamrolling his way toward the White House is not shocking, appalling, or even tragic… it’s absurd.
So, for the poets who are attacking the art form with gravidity and righteous indignation: You may keep on with your work that treats the human condition as if it were an elite and precious chess game that goes on for hours on end somewhere in the heart of Moscow, but please understand that roughly ninety-eight percent of the population does not give the slightest damn. And if you can find it in your soul someday to pull your heads out of Plato’s cave and stop writing only about the shadows on the wall, the world could use your help.