In an age of instant communication, where image and music is king, the question is often asked, does poetry matter? Judging by the explosion of poetry on social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it matter now more than ever.
Poetry traditionally was a folk art, how we passed on our lore from one generation to the next. The “Flyting” (1) of the Ulster Scots, the bardic verse of the Gaelic Irish, to the sagas of the Icelandic and Norse peoples, and the Anglo Saxon epics, followed a long line that goes all the way back to the Chinese and Babylonians.
While poets once upon a time here in my native Ireland were a revered class all of their own, poetry since Elizabethan times has had a double identity, that of something to be ashamed of due to the oppression of Irish culture, and something to be spoken of lowly and revered for the same reason.
Then, in the 19th century, among the populace, it fell right out of fashion, in the creation, but revered in the profession, as in folk loved to read others poetry, but failed to write their own as much.
Then the internet happened. Initially there were dedicated Writers Portals, which became good templates for actual social networks, WritersCafe.org being a prime example that I’m sure Facebook would have noted. The first one I started on was the now defunct Swedish based Writerstoyou.com, it actually took me a while to get onto Facebook for poetry!
But when I did, I saw legions of folk all over the world, typing their thoughts away, networking,organising events at a grassroots level, which continues today and will for the future.
Video poetry is also very active, an activity which would not be so vivid if poetry did not matter, with YouTube and Vimeo being prime channels.
(1) Flyting – a practice of one person making a verse, to be responded to or elaborated on by another at the spur of the moment. Often done in the Standard Habbie format, it was practices by and brought to America by the Scots of Ulster, where some claim it had influence on the development of rap, as it is similar to the rap slams.
So, if interest and participation count as a measure, it matters quite a lot indeed!