Should Poetry Be ‘More Playful’?

Noah Berlatsky of the Atlantic claims in this article, “As verse becomes increasingly dry, it’s getting more and more irrelevant.”  

Agree or disagree?

And..if you agree, is it, as Berlatsky says, “all the fault of the MFA program professionalization of highbrow lit” or perhaps, “maybe it was just time for poetry to die, as genres sometimes do”?

How does what he says deviate from the thoughts of poet Charles Wright, from the introduction to Best American Poetry 2008, calling for the “kraken to rise”?

At TSHS, poetry is far from dead.

Hail Poetry!

About the Author: Abigail Browning

aba-city-lights-poet-picAbigail Browning, Founder and Managing Editor, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, received her MFA in Poetry at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Abigail has poems either published or forthcoming in the Yemassee Journal OnlineThe Greensboro Review, Linebreakand RHINO Poetry. In addition, she was honored to receive the Amon Liner Poetry Award, the Noel Callow/Academy of American Poets’ Prize, and was a finalist for the Linda Flowers NC Arts Prize. She also has a passion for jazz music and dance, and teaches swing-era dances in her free time: www.abigailbrowning.com. Currently, she is studying Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media as a PhD at NC State in Raleigh, NC.

8 Comments on Should Poetry Be ‘More Playful’?

  1. Seems like such a pat criticism of poetry (and literary fiction in general) when the truth is there is more going on in creative writing now than there ever has before, and considerably more venues (not all of them good, granted) thanks to the internet. So to anyone who makes these sweeping generalizations that poetry is too institutionalized or the short story is dead, I can only assume they’re not looking very hard, which suggests to me that it’s not the writers who are lacking in creativity.

    It’s fortunate, too, that we have so many MFA programs now, if only so we have a convenient scapegoat for the Death of Literature. O woe is us, etc.

    P.S. Love the use of PoP.

    • Hail Poetry! It is unfortunate that MFA programs, which are the modern form of the patron are so frowned upon. How else would have Shakespeare written without the funding to do so?

  2. I feel this article is pandering to an audience who has probably been worrying a lot about the economy and political craziness to be digging themselves into poetry – who could blame the audience for doing so? They don’t have time to root around in the extensive amount of poetry that exists right now, and it’s easy to be jealous of academics who do have the time to really immerse themselves in it.

    I subscribe to the Writer’s Daily Almanac just to make sure I get at least a little poetry in my life, and even so, I delete about 75% of the goddamn things if I don’t immediately connect to the poem featured. Does this mean there’s something wrong with poetry as a genre? Does this mean that there’s something wrong with poetry education? I don’t think this is a symptom so much of poetry, but rather our own lives. Does inaccessible, dry, “serious” and not-awesome poetry exist? Yes. However, I just feel like this article is blaming Westminster and other kennel clubs for the existance of Chinese crested dogs.

    • “I just feel like this article is blaming Westminster and other kennel clubs for the existance of Chinese crested dogs.” Yes. TSHS is completely on board with this analogy.

  3. I think this is an aesthetic issue. Certain readers and poets love wit and humor in their poetry. If that’s the kind of “playful”ness that’s being argued for. Can’t a poet be playful with line breaks, form, the sequence of words, and still be sincere and honest? I for one am sick of MFA programs being blamed for whatever folks find wrong with American poetry. I never once felt that I was being pushed to write in any form or aesthetic while studying at UNC-Greensboro with Stuart and Fred. If you don’t like a poet’s style, then find a poet whose style you admire, but don’t blame MFA programs.

    • Exactly, Julie. While you can see preferences in poet-mentors, the best ones want you to keep developing your own style/voice. In fact, they often push you to go further in your own voice (in our experience).

  4. This is a matter of personal taste, sounds like. Every kind of poetry has its place, audience, but to say serious poetry becomes irrelevant is … naive, or self-centered at best.

    Maybe Noah just needs a vacation. I do have feelings about how we teach children to enjoy poetry, and on that note, we do lovely and rich metaphor for children to enjoy, and “get.”

    That they can pick like plums. 🙂

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