16 Aug 2014

Why Modern Poetry... Sucks

A contentious title, is it not? But unfortunately, I believe it a true one. Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against modern poets (I mean, I technically am one) and indeed some—like Carol Ann Duffy, to name my favourite—produce some excellent works.

And yet I cannot deny the fact that, reading most of today’s poetry—be it online, in a few books, or in literary journals—I have the powerful impression that there really aren’t many real poets out there. What gets classed as ‘poetry’ today possesses a certain… vacuousness, that would make poets—even those of a few decades ago—turn in their graves.

I’m not trying to be hyperbolic. Allow me to elaborate…

A Look Into Today’s Poetry

I shall not be naming and shaming; I don’t consider that kosher. Mostly, I shall be using examples created by myself. Take this one:

In my house
The song of radiators
Echoes into television dreams.

Actually, that’s a little too good for what I’m referring to. Let’s try again, this time with a poem by Anonymous:

So I want
To leave
A deep scratch
Of my mind
On the screen
Of the world
And walk along
With all bards
After my death
Hundreds of years
On soiled paths
And metal streets
Without my limbs
Blood and flesh
In haunting houses
And Joyous classes,
Make them feel
My hovering spirit
In emotional moments
In acts and deeds
Soothing souls
And agitated minds.

This actually isn’t bad, in the general standard of things. It’s biggest mistake is in being too long, having overly short lines, and overly bulky stanzas. (Let me paraphrase: it’s god awful hard to read.)

Closer examination, however, reveals a deeper problem. It’s meaningless. It has neither rhyme nor reason; and with that it no longer becomes a work of art—an expression of emotion, a creation of inherent desire—and instead becomes a vapid caricature.

Let’s delve into some specifics:

On soiled paths
And metal streets
Without my limbs
Blood and flesh
In haunting houses
And Joyous classes,

Does the adjective ‘soiled’ have any impact whatsoever on the meaning of the poem? Does it even create imagery? As far as I can see, it doesn’t. Nor, for that matter, does ‘metal’ in streets; for there are no such things, and neither is it metaphorical or used to evoke imagery.

‘Blood and flesh’ literally has no meaning whatsoever. You could remove it, and nothing would change. ‘Haunting houses’? Really? I know alliteration is effective, but this really is very forced. As for ‘Joyous classes’—why the capitalisation, what exactly is ‘Joyous’ supposed to mean in this context, and what type of ‘classes’ are we referring to exactly?

Perhaps Anon is referring to school classrooms? In which case, he is being: a) terribly vague; b) unrealistic; and c) not evoking of the image.

Basically, six entire lines are devoted to nothing at all.

Harsh? Yes: But Not Without Reason

You may think I am being harsh on the author. And indeed, I am: the idea of leaving an indelible mark upon society through art is certainly an interesting and powerful idea.

Trouble is, modern poets seem—on the whole—obsessed with joining words together instead of writing meaningful prose. Turgour is even worse of a problem than it was in the eighteenth century; for now that turgour is devoid of meaning.

And remember: this is actually pretty good for the ones I’ve seen. Most seem to have little relation to anything at all.

The Poet has Killed the Poem

That’s my final message, at the end of it all. There was a time when a poet could bring his work to the masses… and the masses could be expected to listen. They may not have understood everything; but still, the poem would have connected. They would have seen something of their lives, and of themselves. Perhaps they would enjoy life. Perhaps they would reform something of themselves.

At the least, they would feel something.

The killing began with pretentiousness. Poets began writing ever longer and more turgid works. The references to gods became too many and too obscure for the ordinary working class citizen to know or understand. And the structures! Complicated, twisting; difficult to read; harder still to speak.

At least poetry was still read (and enjoyed) by the academics and those of a literary disposition. Now, even writers pay them little attention; and poetry seems mainly to belong to a few niche circles.

This new fall came from the modern era. Poetry is no longer a an art form worth practising: it is now merely a way to express musings. Little snippets of words that just happened to be passing through your mind are now considered serious prose.

At first we stripped poetry of general appeal; then we stripped it of meaning; and now we condemn it to the work of the untalented and poor.

I am giving you two poems of mine to read. They both carry a message—one dramatic, the other subtle. I would submit them to literary magazines, but no one will read them even if they get published. (Which is easier said than done, considering hw pretentious and closed-minded they are.)

I would voice them; but who would listen? The organisations relevant—LGBT rights advocates, reason and science foundations—don’t do poetry. I wonder why. And good luck getting anyone on the street to listen.

Perhaps you, dear reader, are willing to give them look. And maybe you’ll take my message to heart. Don’t pretend they’re any good. Don’t pseudo-analyse and write praise that would seem fake even in an ad.

Repudiate. It’s bullshit, and you know it.

Read The Lover’s Curse—a dramatic fusion of rhyme and hexameter, on false social practice and oppression.

Read God the Sun: a subtle attack on the notion of an omni-benevolent god.


  1. I somewhat concur. I agree with modern poets nowadays blow hard. I feel most poets today either want to be the second coming of Robert Frost or Bukowski, and in both case usually fail pretty hilariously. I believe most editors care only for the language used instead of the actual message or story given(unless you are already famous then all that matters is the name attached). I personally care not 99 percent of the time of the language used, caring only for the story,, which in modern poets is about tedious topics such as women bleeding between their legs with their little girls wanting to bleed as well ......and so forth and so on...which I don't want to read abou... lol.. Sure being precise in writing is a good thing, but only when the actual story is worthy of precision.

  2. You first have to identify and understand poetry to say it sucks; please allow me. Poe matched his composition and all of his devices to the subject......each space and every character was perfection. His works were almost living things per the obvious. The so-called "new poetry" is so very far away from even proper English that the idiot hack practitioners of the world failed to even come up with a different term other than the existing word "poetry". Imagine that, imposter writers even failing to make a new word to describe their scribble-dee-doos, then have the audacity to call themselves poets. The Illiterati, publishers, editors, and many colleges are clueless. "New poetry" sucks because it doesn't have any of the appeal that proper writing and actual poetry has. In fact, most do not see any appeal whatsoever. What is further, a chicken may randomly peck at a keyboard and maintain its argument that it's poetry in the modern definition (which is pfffffffffrrrrrt I don't know and I don't care, I was descended from horse thieves and gluttons.....look at me, I have a wireless keyboard and found a website....I think I'll parrot the other muck-lucks and go total anarchy with an incredible language, a language I never really learned despite 13+ years of classroom time). - Do you happen to see the difference?