Let’s play a thought experiment. Suppose six months ago I say to you over a drink: “I can’t name a single African war lord! Not even the child-zombie-making psychopath from Uganda with the weird moustache! Therefore African Warlordism must be dead!” Now quick: Name me what pint of bleach we’d have to be on for that to make sense.
A gentleman named Liam Eagle made that very argument in The Grid last week. Not about Joseph Kony, but about poetry. He argued that since he can’t name a single living poet, poetry must be dead. Though I suppose Mr. Eagle deserves some credit for being the first person I can think of since a Republican Presidential nominee to cash in on avowing his own ignorance, I humbly submit that one’s ignorance is proof of nothing but itself.
“Along with a lot of fine art, poetry is a pre-video, pre-internet medium.” Here we must concede that the Eagle has landed a fact. Poetry is the oldest human art form, and even if a self-righteous Joseph Brodsky 2012 video isn’t blowing up your Facebook feed, poetry is still being published in the largest, most culturally significant magazines of our time: The New Yorker, Harpers, and The Walrus where I’m lucky to work as poetry editor. We still award poets the Nobel Prize, hardly a marginal accolade. And if poetry is immune to the Charlie-Bit-My-Finger boom of contemporary fame, so too is it immune to fame’s eventual bust. That’s its strength. And it’ll always be there for the incurious to scorn and the curious to rediscover.