Friday, December 01, 2006


The Continuing Crisis

So, this e-mail, from some clown named papa_geno who is wasting time he would better spend on writing over at

"I'm growing weary of the many, many people who continue to insist that there is no comtemporary poetry that touches the lives of anyone outside of the narrow confines of those who have the luxury of making this arcane art the subject of their lives' efforts. What continues to be ignored is that it is not contemporary poetry that is in crisis, but a very specific form of contemporary poetry, one which has chosen a path that is exclusive and elitist, and which seems to be based on the central tenet that poetry can only arise from some pure abstraction eschewing the engagement of any media other than the written word. In truth, excellence in poetry, and in prose, is flourishing, but those artists that flourish, in the public sphere, have taken inventions such as the light bulb and the phonograph into account when shaping their work. If the crisis is real, it is real because there is a subset of artists that continue to insist that poetry must remain unmuddled by anything not tasting of candlelight and quill and ink.

"I think it's true enough to suggest that the general public is probably unfamiliar with contemporary poetry, as defined by work that remains planted firmly on the page, and that there are many who would like to engage the craft that are wholly unfamiliar with any poem--in this sense--more recent than Ginsberg's "Howl". If, however, a broader definition is accepted, one that understands that much contemporary poetry is disseminated not via the page, but the CD--and similarly, that much prose is disseminated not via the page, but DVDs--I think it reasonable to say that there are several poets that the average audience is very familiar with. While I am aware that many will argue the point, I respectfully submit the following non-exclusive list of 40 poems, in no particular order, all of which are younger than "Howl," and all of which would be recognizable to an audience unfamiliar with contemporary poetry as defined by those who continue to insist that contemporary poetry is in crisis, as evidence for the above points."

On a tear, he then goes on to list the following 40 "poems":

1. "Peace Frogs"
2. "Ball and Chain"
3. "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"
4. "Sweet Jane"
5. "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars"
6. "Lust for Life"
7. "Anarchy in the U.K."
8. "Gloria"
9. "Once in a Lifetime"
10. "Hallelujah"
11. "Graceland"
12. "The Passenger"
13. "Here Comes Your Man"
14. "London Calling"
15. "Orange Crush"
16. "Heroin"
17. "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
18. "Black"
19. "Ruby Vroom"
20. "Big Science"
21. "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)"
22. "Fight the Power"
23. "Chocolate City"
24. "Bohemian Rhapsody"
25. "Ground Control to Major Tom"
26. "Man on the Moon"
27. "Atomic Dog"
28. "Ripple"
29. "Redemption Song"
30. "Sweet Virginia"
31. "Exile In Guyville"
32. "Disarm"
33. "The Stars of Track and Field"
34. "Solsbury Hill"
35. "Bone Machine"
36. "Swamp"
37. "Clandestino"
38. "First We Take Manhattan"
39. "Sympathy for the Devil"
40. "Fast Car"

I'm thinking there must be others...but I'd like to open the question to anyone who wishes to contribute other poets, or poems, within the last 50 years, with which the average non-English major might be familiar.

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