Hip hop culture and the popularity of rap battle leagues such as Don’t Flop, demonstrate as clever, witty and brilliant grasp of language as some of our most treasured English poets, not to mention that the lyrics of Alex Turner have as much depth as some of the greatest examples of English verse. So why does the word ‘poetry’ seem to stick in our throats?
Well, a lot of people think it’s a load of daft, pretentious fluff. That it is confined to the intellectual upper classes, who spend Friday nights in the library raising their IQ with dusty books, instead of going out on the lash with their mates. But poetry isn’t something to be enjoyed exclusively by ‘educated’ elitists while everyone else is in the real world, too busy going to work and washing the dishes. Poetry is not all about flowers.
Performance poets have been shouting about raising the status of poetry for years and it has never been easier. Youtube has given a platform to wordsmiths like Benjamin Zephaniah talking turkeys, Murray Lachlan Young on scrotums and cocaine, Scroobious Pip, Laura Dockrill, Polarbear, Kate Tempest. It’s easy to see there is a big overlap between spoken word and rap, poets and lyricists.
There is no better time to realise the value of poetry than now. We’re in an age where it seems everything must be instantaneous, and of all the art forms poetry is the briefest, the most compact. We are being emotionally numbed by spending lonely hours staring at screens, and if anything, poetry ignites some kind of feeling, even if we don’t know what it means.
The predictable response ‘but poetry is boring’ actually translates as ‘I hated dissecting obscure lines about flowers at school.’ Well poetry is so much more than that, we hear it every day, we’re just not calling it poetry. So the message isn’t to torture yourself in finding meaning in Wordsworth’s Daffodils, but just to be more tolerant and open minded about the genre. You never know, you might like more of it than you thought.