The Enright Files on the role of poetry in the world today
The world is sorely lacking in poetry these days, it seems.
Narrative fiction is doing just fine. And as for the dark arts of manipulation through language — namely, spin, obfuscation and alternative facts — well, have you read the news lately?
Poetry — the creative use of language to make the familiar and mundane appear startling and new, to pierce the fog of the times we live in with clarity and insight, to create beauty for its own sake — poetry still lives, of course, but in obscurity.
It may well be that aside from those writers who publish their poems for many thousands of followers on Instagram and Twitter, poets have rarely had a lower profile than they do today.
Certainly, it's hard to think of any contemporary poets who would rank as household names the way Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg or Robert Frost were just five or six decades ago.
Maybe the world has just moved on. Maybe poetry is simply not all that relevant to a digitized, hyperconnected world in which we spend our reading hours churning through a blizzard of information. Not the "emotion recollected in tranquility" that William Wordsworth said was at the heart of poetry.
But if Robert Frost was right when he defined poetry as a "momentary stay against confusion," perhaps we need poetry today more than ever.
In this month's edition of The Enright Files, conversations with prominent poets — prominent being a relative term here — about the role of poetry in the world today and what poets have to say to the rest of us.
Guests in this episode:
- Billy Collins was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003.
- Julie Bruck won the Governor General's Award for English-language poetry in 2012 for her collection Monkey Ranch.
- Anne Carson is an award-winning Canadian poet, translator and classics scholar.
- Pino Coluccio is a Toronto poet. He was awarded the Trillium Book Award for Poetry in 2018 for his collection Class Clown.
** The Enright Files is produced by Chris Wodskou.