The Gustavian Weekly

The hierarchy of poetry - The Gustavian Weekly

By Lizzy Woerpel - Opinion Columnist | March 6, 2020 | Opinion

For as long as the arts have existed people have divided them among the classes.
Literature, opera, and ballet for the high class and folktales, young adult novels and folk music for the lower classes. With all the different social media sites, this division is more prominent than ever.
We can see this division in poetry with the introduction of the concept of “Instagram” poetry and with the release of books such as “Milk and Honey” by Rupin Kaur. We see these types of poetry constantly posted on social media, painted on boards, plastered over photos but never in the classroom. These examples of poetry have been left out of most formal teachings of poetry and to some people aren’t even considered poetry.

Despite all the controversy over “Instagram ‘’ poetry it’s still leaving its mark on the world of literature and in a way that makes sense for our current society.

Many have argued that these poems are too short to say anything of value or to serve any purpose, but authors like Kaur are proving those critics wrong the same way Ernest Hemingway is said to have proved critics wrong by doing the same.
Legend says that when told he couldn’t write a story in only one line, Hemingway took the challenge and wrote, “For sale: Baby Shoes. Never Worn”. Despite being only one line the reader gets a clear concept of the story and all the emotion involved without ever hearing any details. Kaur uses this same technique in many of her poems in her book, “Milk and Honey.” One poem reads,
“What is stronger / than the human heart / which shatters over and over / and still lives”(Kaur & Storti, 2018)
This poem is extremely short but still clearly conveys the story and emotion in the poem.
In addition to still being able to convey a large amount of emotion and meaning in these small works, they also fit our high speed lives. Our society pushes people to work harder, faster, more efficiently, and longer than ever before.
As college students we experience this rushed life style every day. Between classes, work extracurriculars, homework, social lives and still taking care of yourself and your body, students have very little leisure time. This is so prevalent that a common joke on campuses is that you have three choices, school, social life and taking care of yourself.
But you can only pick two of the three and life doesn’t slow down a lot after college. Because of this change in lifestyle media has to change; sports have halves instead of quarters, TV episodes are 40 minutes instead of an hour, books tend to be shorter and poetry is only a few lines. In an ideal world, people would have the time to read long sagas if they wanted, but in our current society few people have the time to read for any extended period of time. These short poems make poetry accessible to a much wider audience.
The topics of the poems have also shifted. These poems tend to be a lot more personal than poetry of previous eras. In many poems from previous eras authors contemplated broader ideas such as life and death and even when they wrote about more personal topics they did it through a narrator other than themselves whereas authors like Kaur and Amanda Lovelace, the author of the poetry book “The Princess Saves Herself in this One”, write about their own lives and the deep and often traumatic struggles they faced. Their openness about their struggles and the pain they’ve suffered is what makes their poetry so meaningful and relatable to readers. In our society, where according to the World Health Organization, one in four people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime people need an outlet for their emotions and way to see that they are not only not alone in their struggles but that life does improve.
The often dark topics that collections like “Milk and Honey” and “the princess saves herself in this one” cover help give a voice to people for the important issues in our society and comfort those affected by them.

Even though these poems don’t contain the same level of literary technique that “traditional” poetry has, they serve an important purpose in our society and in the future of literature.

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