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Is Poetry Dead? Not if 45 Official Laureates Are Any Indication

‘Keats is dead...’: How young women are changing the rules of poetry

It is a poem with a surrealistic aperture, oracular lens and Delphic tripod. Imagination is the conductor of primeval lightning, the fiery trickster leaping between frozen and fragmented realia, the universal translator of the multitude of tongues both human and inhuman emitted by the Signal of signals. He seems as well interested in the spiritual dimension of poetry, especially in the degrees to which poetry can give us access to spiritual or emotional states beyond those we normally experience.

I am only concerned with simultaneity and height, with rays of monomial kindling, guiding the neo-cortex through ravens, into the ecstasy of x-rays and blackness. Orishas, angels and ghosts all sing to this poet, instructing him in their art of verbal flight. He has increasingly written across genres, in novels such as Diary as Sin , the story-like collection Sunrise in Armageddon , and theater pieces collected in Inside the Earthquake Palace Other essay and philosophical writings are included in Mirach Speaks to his Grammatical Transparents Alexander has taught at many colleges and universities, including the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, the University of California, and Hofstra University, among others.

Contributor to various small press publications, including Callaloo, Conjunctions, apex of the M, Orpheus Grid, and Gem. Prose Home Harriet Blog. Visit Home Events Exhibitions Library. Newsletter Subscribe Give. Poetry Foundation. Back to Previous. Will Alexander.

Poems by Will Alexander. Related Content. Poems by This Poet Related Bibliography.

Is Poetry Dead? Not if 45 Official Laureates Are Any Indication

Above the Human Nerve Domain. Compound Hibernation. Such animals live on their own, utterly unconcerned with the names humans put upon them. But here too, the metaphor breaks down.

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A worn-out part on an automobile can be switched out with a nearly identical part and run as it did before. In a poem, a word exchanged for another word even a close synonym can alter the entire functioning of the poem. The most productive thing about trying to define a poem through comparison—to an animal, a machine, or whatever else—is not in the comparison itself but in the arguing over it. Whether or not you view a poem as a machine or a wild animal, it can change the machine or wild animal of your mind.

A poem helps the mind play with its well-trod patterns of thought, and can even help reroute those patterns by making us see the familiar anew. An example: the sun.

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Consider a poem lurking in the pages of The New Yorker. There it is staring you in the face: Do you read it as well as it reads you? In terms of ink on paper, it does nothing more than the prose around it, but in terms of apprehension, it draws in your eye and places the poem in a rarefied position and a totally ignorable one all at once. What a waste of my time! How much did that cost? The magazine gave up valuable space to print the poem instead of printing a longer article or an advertisement. Nobody bought the copy of The New Yorker for the poem, except perhaps for the poet who wrote it.

A poem is a text—a product of writing and rewriting—but unlike articles, stories, or novels, it never really becomes a thing made in order to become a commodity. A new novel, a memoir, or even a short story collection has the potential for earning big bucks.

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Of course, this potential is often not realized, but a new book of poems that yields its author more than a thousand-dollar advance is exceedingly rare. Publicists at publishing houses, even the largest ones, dutifully write press releases and send out review copies of poetry collections, but none will tell you that they expect a collection to sell enough copies to break even with the costs of printing it.

Like no other book, a book of poems presents itself not as a thing for the marketplace, but as a thing for its own sake.

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The visual form provides what we might call a little bonus or lagniappe in meaning, and it also makes us notice the poem as more than a raggedly blotch—the blotch itself is meaning. The caveat is that freedom often requires more work, more self-motivation, and a certain degree of confusion. I know, it seems asinine. When we come across a poem—any poem—our first assumption should not be to prejudice it as a thing of beauty, but simply as a thing. The linguists and theorists tells us that language is all metaphor in the first place.

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But the intricacies of signifiers and signifieds fade from view after college. Because of its special status—set apart in a magazine or a book, all that white space pressing upon it—a poem still has the ability to surprise, if only for a moment which is outside all the real and virtual, the aural and digital chatter that envelopes it, and us. And yet, one Jewish tradition admonishes that parents teach their children to love the Talmud not by reading it to them first, but by having them lick honey from its pages.

That would seem, to me, an ideal way to experience both bee spit and poetry.

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