Poetry, arguably the most powerful form of communication ever devised by mankind, has died. It was thousands of years old.

Poetry died yesterday after a prolonged illness. Trapped in a meaningless, vegetative state for some time, feeding tubes were removed, allowing Poetry to die with dignity.

Aristotle once wrote, “Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.” And from the time of the Ancient Greeks through the middle part of the 20th century, Poetry, through the keen words of rich and poor, sinner and theologian, woman and man, old and young, wrestled universal Truth from the chaos of human existence.

However, after the literary theory of Deconstruction came into vogue among elites, and Postmodernism established its reign among academics in general, Poetry gradually fell out of favor among the general population.

As a consequence of this intellectual revolution, Truth was no longer seen as a goal of Poetry because meaning itself became a form of societal oppression. Truth abandoned as an aesthetic destination, writers began to write obscure, stream-of-consciousness works that defied any interpretation and, at best, merely conveyed some sort of feeling, usually confusion (in fact, the more dumbfounded the reader, the better received the poem).

Long gone were the days in which Poetry, as John Keats said, endeavored to “…strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.” The reader was no longer a consideration.

Literary elites found this change in Poetry to be liberating: Appealing to readers was creatively stifling—a tool of the establishment to institute uniformity. So they began rooting out any Poetry considered “traditional,” “classical,” or “meaningful.”

However, members of the non-PhD and MFA population mostly rejected this development in Poetry. They looked back with nostalgia on such artists as John Donne, William Shakespeare, John Keats, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, and Maya Angelou, the ones whom non-experts could comprehend, enjoy, and perhaps learn from, but few new writers attempted such Poetry, and if they did, they would never appear in a prestigious publication.

Thus, the non-academic of average or above-average intelligence (or even the genius, for that matter) stopped pursuing Poetry. Why, many reasoned, devote time on an activity in which no insight could be gained? And Poetry became a recluse of the Ivory Tower.

Poetry, which had once been one of the great societal influences, was only circulated among elites through select journals, mostly those attached to universities because low-subscription numbers were not an impediment to publication; and these elites protected their vision of Poetry dogmatically through creative writing programs.

For a short time, Poetry did make some headway into the general population through its “slam” or “performance” variation, but this movement was short-lived.

Ultimately, Poetry written to communicate essential ideas of human existence through vibrant, powerful language was—for all time—a relic of the past. Poetry had become a medium for cleverly-worded obfuscation and unattached feeling; it would never mean anything again.

So, Poetry’s meaningless existence was ended yesterday.

Poetry is survived by Prose, which still often means something; Poetry joins its siblings, Painting and Sculpture, in death.

Cremation is planned.


Ron L. Hodges is a long-time English teacher, having taught at Oxford Academy in Cypress, California, for the past ten years. About a year ago he started writing poetry. He lives in Orange County, California with his wife and two sons.

Featured Image: “Erato, Muse of Poetry”  by Edward John Poynter


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4 Responses

  1. james sale

    Love this piece Ron, love it and totally agree, except on one small point. I remember when Michael Jackson died some fan gushed on the 6 o’clock news that ‘music was dead’ – how ludicrous, I thought, and anyway Bach died a long time ago and there were still individuals churning out some decent stuff. So my point is: just when we think the corpse is dead, so it isn’t, so life surprises us and resurrection is possible. Indeed, in the case of poetry it cannot die anyway because the Muse cannot die, and is immortal. Yes, all you say is true, but somewhere else in the English-speaking world (I know little of other language poetries) some individuals will be rapt by the Muse and poetry will emerge; but of course it’s just more difficult now for it to hit mainstream. Remember GM Hopkins? It took 40 years after his death before his poetry was discovered, but anyone reading it can see the Muse was alive in him – and Emily Dickinson to take another example. Be patient – poetry will emerge like grass does in Spring; it is inevitable in human life.

    • Ron Hodges

      I agree with you completely, James. This is intended as pure satire, with hyperbole to reinforce its point. Good poetry is being written (by members of The Society, for instance), but more and more it seems to be disappearing from society at large and languishing in academic purgatory!

  2. Shari Jo LeKane-Yentumi

    “Up then, fair phoenix bride, frustrate the sun;
    Thyself from thine affection
    Takest warmth enough, and from thine eye
    All lesser birds will take their jollity.
    Up, up, fair bride, and call
    Thy stars from out their several boxes, take
    Thy rubies, pearls, and diamonds forth, and make
    Thyself a constellation of them all;
    And by their blazing signify
    That a great princess falls, but doth not die.
    Be thou a new star, that to us portends
    Ends of much wonder; and be thou those ends.”
    ― John Donne, The Complete English Poems


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