By Mathilde Sire
Taking many different forms, the art of poetry has been around for over thousands of years. A few contemporaries have been finding their place among some of the greats, such as William Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Maya Angelou. Once thought to be a dying art form, poetry has been making a come-back these past few years, and this article aims to understand why. It is also important to determine the difference between a come-back and a revolution, the latter of which has been in the making for several months.
Poetry In Self-Expression
After a difficult year of global pandemic struggles and worldwide protests for social and racial justice, poetry has remained a trusted medium for expressing one’s ideas and emotions, sparking a conversation around a particular subject. Following Amanda Gorman’s reading of her poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ at American president Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2020, there was a huge surge in poetry sales and events. The event tech platform, Eventbrite has seen an increase of 24% in virtual poetry events in the US compared to before the election (Forbes). Even before Gorman’s recital, there had been a significant boom in sales in 2018, worth £12.3 million (Nielsen BookScan). This can be explained by the current atmosphere in the UK and the lack of trust people have for their politicians. Susannah Herbert, director of the Forward Arts Foundation, summed it up in an interview for the Guardian: “To me, it’s no coincidence that poetry as a form is being used to critically discuss events like Grenfell, the Manchester bombing and Brexit as well,” she said. “It’s being repurposed as this really dynamic and vital form that can capture, in a very condensed way, the turbulent nature of contemporary society – and give us the space to struggle with our desire to understand and negotiate a lot of what is going on at the moment.”
Revolution In Poetry
When we think of contemporary poets, some of the names that come to mind are Rupi Kaur (The Sun and Her Flowers, 2019), Ada Limón (Bright Dead Things, 2015), or Ocean Vuong (On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, 2019). These new poets certainly have contributed to poetry’s newfound popularity, especially with young people. Rupi Kaur, for instance, started the trend of publishing one’s poems on social media, such as Instagram, to take ownership of their work and shift power dynamics in the publishing industry. More than a change in platform, these last years brought about a revolution in format and content. In the era of Twitter and its former 140-character posts, it is more common to find very short poems than pages-long epics. Taking R.H. Sin’s poems as an example, they are often confined to one line, “I know you’re hurting but don’t let him break you.” The new kind of poems might disturb hardened poetry lovers, who take pleasure in dissecting and analysing every word, every punctuation mark and line break. However, it is easy to see how this change came about, in a society of fast consumption and global availability.
Future Of Poetry
Looking to the future, it is likely that poetry as an art form will continue to evolve and adapt to our society’s needs and trends. The appeal for widespread art and bypassing publishing rules by posting it on social media is at an all-time high. It also allows people who may have been overlooked by professionals in the industry to find their audience and thrive. This accessibility brings about much more diversity, both for the authors and the readers. I believe it will be incredibly interesting to see English GCSE curriculums change according to current trends. We can already see a form of evolution in the authors studied now, women featured more heavily and it is not as obviously white-dominated as it used to be. This will also help develop young people’s love and interest for poetry, and not regard it as such a “highbrow” art form.
The current state of the world is demanding more art and release from the constant string of anxiety-inducing news. About the future of poetry, Rupi Kaur told USA Today, "I think that during times like this, artists and thinkers and makers get to work," she said. "Creating is a form of processing and reflecting. I think we're going to be seeing so much coming out and more artists releasing books of poetry."
To conclude, poetry has bright days ahead. It is a literary form that has come back in cycles throughout history. People find comfort and pleasure in reading words they can relate and sometimes escape to. As well as a purely artistic piece, a poem can often be a cry for resilience and healing, as we saw with Amanda Gorman’s viral recital. Plato noted, “Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.”