Does Poetry Take Itself Too Seriously?

In an interview in Willow Springs (Spring 2016), the interviewer asks if poetry takes itself too seriously. The interviewee D.A. Powell agreed. My first response was something along the lines of “Poetry is serious! Not too serious!” But then, I realized that I’ve had similar thoughts, but perhaps more as it pertains to critical essay.

If you go on to read the rest of the article, I think what Powell is really saying is that he’s interested in poetry that doesn’t take itself too seriously. He’s talking about personal preferences.

Poetry itself is neither too serious or too silly. Rather the poem takes on the attitude of its maker.

Perhaps to me what is a more interesting question is whether certain people writing about poetry put poetry on too high of a plane, as if all good poems were inherently imbued with some paranormal powers to transform consciousness.

Don’t misunderstand me, I sincerely believe poetry has the power, much like any art form, to move us, to inspire us and to bring us insight, often far beyond the original intent of the poet. Not only that, but I believe poetry to be the highest art form there is (a post for another day). But still, but still, I read critical writing that sometimes seems to infuse poetry with magical powers far beyond the capabilities of any art form. I guess anyone can become swept up in the excitement that art sometimes inspires within us and wax into grandiose language. And because there seems to be a culture of such exaggeration, such writing reinforces itself and paves the way for others. It’s no great sin, mind you, just inaccurate, I think. Or perhaps, I am shortsighted.

(Author’s note: I’d rather not cite the instances of grandiose language to which I refer here, as I quite like and respect the authors.)

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