The Day the Poetry Died

Wonder why poetry is in decline,
While not ever writing one lyric line?
There is no experience more perverse,
Than self-indulgent poems in free verse.
Your pain, your angst, and existential doubt,
Pretension endured day in and day out.
Deep thoughts, believed you’re the first to discern,
Which all human-kind must now be concerned.
Substance, once required in days gone by,
Now regurgitated thoughts do qualify.
Banal pabulums we already know,
If you can’t be deep, at least have a flow!
Dryden and Pope are cut to the marrow,
When we’re taught to adore “The red wheelbarrow.”
Free verse, written without breaking a sweat,
It’s “like playing tennis without a net.”


“Give Us Barabbas!”

When reason and truth have both gone astray,
Political correctness rules the day.
When everyone lies without compunction,
Time for societal extreme unction.
Rules of discourse, now a Gordian knot,
Yet breaking them will incite a boycott.
“Never upset me” is the law of the land,
You know “a house divided cannot stand.”
“Don’t speak your mind with thoughts undesired,
Without a doubt we will all get you fired.”
When others’ thoughts have been laid to rest,
It seems your ideas must now be addressed.
You’re top of the heap, then the crowd doth spew:
“Give us Barabbas!” and then comes for you.


Steven Shaffer’s other art form is computer code, which supports his poetry habit. He lives in a suburb of the middle of nowhere in central Pennsylvania with his wife and two dogs. Blog is My So-Called Civilization 

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11 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    I share your ideas. You sound sane; unusual in this age of angst Keep on!

  2. Steven Shaffer

    Thanks everyone, it means a lot. Until a few weeks ago, I literally thought I was the only person left who liked classic poetry. I’m a big fan of Alexander Pope, esp. “An Essay on Criticism.”

  3. B. S. Eliud Acrewe

    I share Mr. Shaffer’s enthusiam for Pope’s “Essay on Criticism”. And though in some ways I do not think it is as polished as Horace’s “Ars Poetica,” I like it better; and critically, between Dryden and Johnson, no other work reaches its critical mass. In addition, Pope wrote “Essay on Criticism” when he was 23. I would even go so far as to say it is the greatest single piece of literary citicism in the English language.

    Although I personally cannot imagine English literature without Dryden or Pope, not everyone @ SCP (Society of Classical Poets) appreciates their remarkable literary accomplishments; however, what is so nice @ SPC is that one can find others who may share one’s poetic vision, or even others who will argue civilly, occasionally brusquely, with one. Canadian writer Mr. Gosselin, for example, in his antagonism for the kind of poetry that Dryden wrote, brings up important qualities to consider, etc.

    This site is undoubtedly one of the best sites for “classical” English poetry anywhere on the Internet; and it is due to the hard work of individuals, like Mr. Mantyk, Mr. Philipp, Mr. Yu, Ms. Pentchoukova, and so many others. They have done an excellent job in promoting the revival and proliferation of good, new poetry. And even if at times our poems on this site fall short, I am reminded by Pope:

    “Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,
    Thinks what ne’er was, nor is, nor e’er shall be,
    In every work regard the writer’s end,
    Since none can compass more than they intend;
    And if the means be just, the conduct true,
    Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due.”

    • James Sale

      Yes, BSEA is right: three cheers for Evan and the crew – it is a remarkable production, and has given hope to so many, myself included.

  4. David Paul Behrens

    You hit the nail on the head, Steven. It reminds me of a short poem I wrote about five years ago:


    Poetry that rhymes
    May be out of fashion
    Unfortunately for me
    It is my passion

    Just like a king
    Must wear his crown
    If it does not rhyme
    I don’t write it down

    Thank goodness for The Society of Classical Poets!

  5. James A. Tweedie

    David, I love your poem and fully agree with your comment. It is why I have also become an enthusiastic member of the SCP. There is, however, another side to the story which I have also put into verse. We walk a fine line!

    Pomposity in verse
    Is English at its worst.
    And even less sublime is
    Such drivel when it rhymes.

  6. David Hollywood

    Excellent, and what a relief to read during these times of so much awful poetry which is supposed to be interpreted by the rest of us as genius in action. Thank you and great sentiment.


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