Happy Tuesday! With all that heavy, anxiety-ish stuff discussed and done with (see last week’s post), today’s blog post is venturing down a path I haven yet to forge through here on the Art+Deco blog: poetry. More than just poetry, I’ve been interested in the seemingly new wave of poetry: small, bite-sized portions of prose that can be read and understood in a short sitting.
Traditionally, I have always known poetry to be deeply metaphorical in its nature and long-winded. I’ve surely slaved over that kind of rich, analytical language in many an English class, but it’s come to my attention recently that contemporary poetry seems to have taken a shift to reflect modern society.
Poetry has always been a part of literature I shied away from because I was overwhelmed with its complexity. I saw my classmates around me speak great praise towards poems that we read in class, carefully dissecting the intricacies of each stanza, each word. Upon my own examination, I would only see a sea of phrases strung together like Christmas lights hung haphazardly on evergreen branches. It was beautiful, sure, but my brain couldn’t easily make sense of it.
The further I was exposed to poetry, the more my mind adapted to this formula of writing. Yes, Gertrude Stein and Emily Dickinson still stump me in their abstract, fragmented language — I still hear some of my English professors asking, “But what does Dickinson’s punctuation mean?”
That’s not meant to discount those treasured poems; in fact, I have a great appreciation for them. But my line of thinking, the desire for more easily digestible poetry seems to be shared across a large group of people.
In some of my own explorations in the dark, quiet corners of second-hand bookstores, I’ve stumbled across poetry that makes sense to me. It’s not that I despise cryptic, experimental prose — hell, I had a fantastic time writing my own poetry in one of my college classes — but to be able to identify themes and morals and messages hidden behind metaphors and similes I must be able to find some kind of grounding string of thought that carries me through each stanza. But who am I to judge what makes good poetry just because I can’t always understand it all? In fact, I think we all sometimes fall victim to judging some poetry because it doesn’t fit under the umbrella of our personal preference.
A prime example of this is Rupi Kuar’s milk and honey, a short book of poetry and illustration. In a wave of minimalistic aesthetic, the book admittedly draws popularity from its sleek, matte black cover and minimal white typography. Inside, the content is much the same. Each poem generally takes up only one page, each stanza short in verse. When it was published in 2014, it was extremely successful for these reasons. I’ll admit I fell for the simplicity as well and bought my own copy.
What has ensued since is an influx of accusations that Kaur’s work isn’t ‘real’ poetry. The book’s subject matter centers around the recurring theme of trauma and femininity. This in itself is enough for some of her supporters to argue that this exempts her from criticism. When is it ever fair to condemn someone for their extreme honesty?
Perhaps it’s her accessible language, lacking any particularly deep-seated metaphors. This, of course, isn’t a dig at her diction. There is clearly ample success in her work; the raw honesty touches a great spectrum of people. Because each poem is short, it’s easy to bookmark a page and return to it later. No need to pencil in any annotations in the margins because what Kuar is saying is clear on the page. There aren’t any guessing games, just candid, sincere truthfulness.
It seems as if milk and honey was just the beginning of this era of poetry. I figured I’d share several other examples with you all that I have seen pop-up recently.
Her by Pierre Alex Jeanty is another collection of poetry and illustration that’s meant to empower and inspire women. In its essence, it’s a book of positive affirmations to remind women their worth in a relationship.
Pillow Thoughts by Courtney Peppernell is similar in content — heartbreak, love, honesty — but uniquely divided into sections meant to be read when you need them most (ie. if you are dreaming of someone, if you are in love, if you are heartbroken, etc.).
Personally, I don’t see one kind of poetry as the be-all and end-all of the entire literary genre. Is one better than the other? I suppose it might come down to personal preference. What I think is important is acknowledging the validity of each type, freedom in their expression.
I’m Dana, a recent college grad from Sonoma State University and newly appointed Social Media Intern here at A+D here to chat with you every Tuesday and Friday. I’m excited to be a part of and witness the publishing process through the lens of a boutique agency. It’s so cool to be a part of a publishing movement specializing in artistic branding and helping contemporary writers craft their written work. Here, we’ll chat about the books that are changing and shaping our lives! So, here’s the place to explore them, to let them out. You can just think of me as your modern-day Bridget Jones – the bookish version!