Saturday, April 17, 2010

ENG 2653: Poetry vs. Prose

Much of the literature we've read in this course (and much of what is read in ENG 2543) is poetry rather than prose.  When I studied American Literature, it started with poetry but that trend ebbed and gave birth to prose earlier than it did in England.  For example, the American Romantics (save Whitman) are famous for their essays and non-fiction, not for their poetry.  Blake, Wordsworth, and Keats wrote essays, but we still read their poetry first.

As a modern-day writer of both poetry and prose, and as someone who wants to make a career out of teaching English (and coaching poets), I am concerned by students' lack of enthusiasm - and sometimes outright disdain - for poetry.  I wonder if students' attitude toward the genre in correlative to the lessened frequency of it today.  The most famous living poets I can think of: Ted Kuzer, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Mary Oliver are names that only poets know while prose writers Stephen King, Dan Brown, Jodi Piccoult, and Nicholas Sparks are much more common names.

Was the shift from poetry to prose purposeful or coincidental?
Wiki defines Poetry as is "a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning."  Might this indicate that poetry went out of style with Romanticism and the rise of Realism, where people wanted "apparent meaning" and reality? They were look away from emotion to reason.
I'm sure another reason poetry waned was because the modern novel was born.  Narratives have always been more readily understood than symbolic language and metaphor.  Prose tend to be narrative and when they are not, they are moreso written in "plain" language that the ambiguity that often characterizes poetry. 

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