Does Poetry Still Have A Place In Our Society?

Poetry has been used through the ages as a form of expression whether that be love, anger, passion or fear. While ordinary people let all the empty words spill from their lips in a colourful mess, it’s the writers who order those frantic words into a phrase that can express the knots in our souls. 

Even with two simple lines, the reader can be transported to a future where things aren’t as astonishing as we thought they might be, just as T.S. Eliot does with his explosive last lines in The Hollow Men:

     This is the way the world ends

     Not with a bang but a whimper.

Throughout history, poetry has always had its place in society as it can stand up to the oppressive nature of civilisation. To fight ‘The Man’ and rage against the institution, as many writers like Allen Ginsberg did in his controversial poem, Howl, when [He] saw the best minds of [his] generation destroyed by madness

Poetry was the salvation for so many during times of war, sickness and manic depressive episodes when people could not find an answer to the suffocating question of how to live a happy life, or the even simpler one: how to live? 

In today’s world, we seem to have it all figured out, with our yoga that stretches and strengthens the mind, our walks through the wonders of nature to centre oneself and remember where it all began, and our pumpkin-spiced lattes and endless swiping and scrolling in the hopes of finding the one thing that’ll set our minds ablaze. 

The question then lingers on whether we need the consoling arms of poetry when we have replaced it with our modern concrete walls and TLC that turned us into selfish, fickle creatures that tend to only care if it’ll make us look good on Insta. 

Quick fixes and masked smiles have become our new salvation, but poetry begs a deeper connection, a longer journey as we stumble over each line, letting the healing words spill over us like a red wine stained in our ethereal souls. 

In 2022, a survey (SPPA) conducted by the NEA, showed that the amount of U.S. adults who read poetry dropped to 9.2% in 2022 compared to 11.7% in 2017, but the 2022 rate remained above the 6.7% of 2012. This survey also discovered that 4.8% of adults reported listening to poetry via broadcasts, recordings, or web streaming. On the other hand, a research project done by The National Literacy Trust in the UK found that the number of children and young people who read poetry at least once a month in their free time has increased by a third in 2022 (28%) compared to 2010 (20.7%). 

This data highlights the emergence of new forms of poetry, with children and young people at the forefront of keeping that flame alive. These new forms of poetry feature on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, with #Poetry content viewed over 67.5 billion times. 

One of the most prominent social media poets is Rupi Kaur, raking in 316 million views on her TikTok account. Milk and Honey dripped from [her] lips with the release of her debut poetry collection and #1 New York Times paperback bestseller. She explores that rarest sweetness in our most bitter moments, the journey of milk and honey.

Another popular form of poetry is verse in the shape of song lyrics with British poet and musician, Arlo Parks, increasing in popularity after winning the award for Breakthrough Artist at the 2021 BRIT Awards. With the release of her debut book, The Magic Border, featuring twenty original poems, she is bridging the gap between poetry and song lyrics with her diaristic, dream-like verses. She transports us to a house with red carnations by the windows, where we’re not so overwhelmed by all [our] flaws.

Poetry has evolved with our changing minds through InstaPoets and lyrics that delicately wander through our souls to undo those knots that have become so tightly wrapped around our beating hearts. It has managed to solidify its position in our lives with the creation of postmodern poetry and verse novels which tell a tale through the intoxicating rhythm that flows between each carefully crafted word. 

Maybe now, when we scroll through those endless faces and phrases, we might be lucky enough to land on the only honest poem that manages to set alight that burning desperation inside us. 

I’m not suggesting that modern poetry has managed to answer that irrational question of how to live, but rather, it has established itself in the realm of those who dared to try. 

After all, it was T.S. Eliot in, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, who asked: 

Do I dare

     Disturb the universe?

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