I recently came across this in a review: He “returns to the verbal acrobatics that defined his early work . . . with dazzling cadences and multisyllabic rhymes.” Taken out of context, you might think the reviewer, Simon Vozick-Levinson, is writing about some poet’s latest collection, but in actuality, he is reviewing Eminem’s latest CD, ‘RecoveryRecovery’ (“Recovery,” Voznick-Levinson, EW.com). If you think about it, when was the last time your heard a modern poet’s work described as having “dazzling cadences and multisyllabic rhymes” ?
Verbal acrobatics, dazzling cadences (meter) and rhyme were the elements that once defined and delineated poetry. Now they have been lost (poets have not only thrown out the baby with the bath water, but also the bathtub as well), but can be found in rap music with its driving beat and often clever end rhymes or in the lyrics of pop songs. Most poetry written today has no rhyme and very little reason. Robert Frost once said, “Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.” This is why most poetry today lacks discpline, skill and craftsmanship, and is one of the reasons why rap music is popular and poetry is not.
Rappers like Eminen are giving voice, form, expression, meaning and at times, a sense of beauty to the harsh realities of post-modern living. To give voice, to give form, to give expression, to give meaning and to give a sense of beauty using verbal skill, meter and rhyme–was this not once the domain of poetry?
Eminem has made a recovery, let’s hope it’s not too late for poetry.ARSE POETICA
(in which I vent a little of my spleen and say, “Let the literary critics be damned!”)Where have all the poets gone? Those bards who once lifted up our dreary lives with song? Long dead is Dylan–Thomas, not Bob. In the fifties, we had a howling Ginsberg–what a slob! Long gone are odes to love and beauty rare, Replaced by neurotic confessions, angst and existential despair. On public display in a hybrid form called prosody–what a farce! Today’s self-anointed poets wouldn’t recognize an iamb if it bit ’em on the arse. “Over a latte at Cosima’s/I twittered a Dear John to my bipolar significant other/Pondering death,/I wandered the streets of Laredo/A cow obscured by mist” At such unpoetic drivel, I shake a metaphysical fist. For this wasteland, we all have Mr. Eliot to thank. That tweedy, proper fellow who worked in a bank. He started this mother of all pandemics By making poetry appealing to the academics. Those bloodless, sucking parasites wallowing in their own manure, Relentless in their pursuit of their Holy Grail: tenure. Catullus, that bawdy, rabble-pleasing chap, would’ve long gone out of collegiate fashion, If it wasn’t for the simple fact that he wrote in Latin. While I’m at it, might as well mention that other poet-in-ivory-tower resident Who eventually was promoted to the position of insurance company vice-president. Don’t dare mention Heaney in Urania’s defense–the use of racial slurs (you too, Plath) should be deemed a crime quite heinous. Instead of “japped with crimson,” you should’ve written “micked with green,” Seamus. Where have all the poets gone? Those bards who once lifted up our dreary souls with song? (© Poeticmeditations 2010. All rights reserved) A personally signed copy of this poem can be ordered at PoeticExpressions.