How has poetry evolved in modern times? Has communication and technology affected the art form - or have musicians simply become the poets of our times?


4 Answers

Lily Bradic Profile
Lily Bradic , Studied a poetry module at university, and love music with brilliant lyrics, answered

Like all forms of literature, poetry has evolved with the times, and I'd definitely agree that some contemporary poetry is influenced by modern technology and communication advancements.

Musicians as Poets

I wouldn't call musicians poets, just as I wouldn't call graphic designers, painters—they may be similar in some respects, but they're still ultimately different forms of artists.

I agree that some contemporary lyricists are poetic in their work; of course, I wouldn't consider Justin Bieber a poet, but lyrics by contemporary artists such as Nate Reuss (Fun.), Neil Hammond (The Divine Comedy), Jarvis Cocker (Pulp) and Nick Cave have come up with some brilliant, almost poetic lyrics recently.

David Bowie and Leonard Cohen, although not so recent, have also written some beautifully poetic lyrics in their time.

Contemporary Takes on Traditional Forms

E. E. Cummings is one example of a contemporary poet who has taken the traditional form of the Petrarchan sonnet and subverted and modernised it. His work speaks and challenges the conventions of the sonnet, and could be said to have modernised the form in his own way.

Rattle is a great site if you're looking for modern takes on traditional poetry. There are poems on this site that are written in traditional forms but address contemporary issues, and often subvert or play with the form in order to illustrate the point they're making in the poem.

Allen Taylor Profile
Allen Taylor , Like all things, poetry has evolved, answered

Yes, poetry has evolved.

I tend to divide poetry into two distinct periods. There is modern poetry and there is classic poetry. Classic poetry is not defined by its forms or structures but by the dividing line known as Ezra Pound, the leader of the Modernist and Imagist movements.

Pound said to "make it new." No other poet or critic has had the influence in 20th century poetics that Pound has had. He influenced a lot of more successful and well known poets, including T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, the Beats, Black Mountain Poets, Language Poets, and even novelists like Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce.

Modern poetry has become much more prosaic. Pound isn't the only person who has influenced poetry in that direction, but his philosophy of poetics certainly made a mark.

Technology has changed the way poetry is read and marketed, naturally. Poets are posting their poems on Facebook and on their own blogs. Poetry is now being published on the Kindle and in other e-book formats. I invented a Twitter hashtag in 2009 that is still being used today (#twitpoem), and not just by me.

One way that technology changes poetry is through the invention of new forms. The #twitpoem experiment is an example. Poems can't be longer than 140 characters, including the hashtag. How's that possible? I explain the #twitpoem form in my e-book Twitter Poems.

The Internet has spawned other new ideas about poetry, such as Flarf, a style that relies upon taking actual texts from the Internet (social media, forums, bulletin boards, search results, etc.) and turning it into poetry.

As for song lyrics being poetry, I'd definitely say that they are. Whether they make for good poetry or not is another question. Some do, some don't. The reason they are called "lyrics" is because they are indeed poetry.

Poetry is made up of two elements - narrative and lyric. Lyric poetry is more sing-songy, like musical lyrics. This has always been the case. Go back and read traditional poetry that uses rhyme and meter and they are examples of lyrical poetry. Narrative poetry, by contrast may rely on traditional poetic elements, but their purpose is to tell a story - much like you would find in a novel or short story. Epic poems like Iliad and Odyssey are narrative poems.

So where do song lyrics reside? If they are lyrical, they are lyric poems set to music. If they are narrative, like Harry Chapin's "Cat In The Cradle," then they are narrative poems set to music.

(I apologize for the excessive self-promotion. I have tried to link to sources that were the best examples of what I'm talking about. Here's a non-self-promotional link to Kindle poetry books. Below is a poetry video to serve as an example of how YouTube is being used to change the delivery of poetry.)

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Melinda Moore
Melinda Moore commented
This is such a great answer, thanks! It's very interesting to hear what the Internet is doing to form and types of poetry - which may explain recent reports that, this year in the UK, sales of individual poets' poetry collections have fallen to an all-time low.

I'm curious as to why this is, but suspect it may have something to do with what you were saying about modern poetry becoming ever more prosaic - as "popular" poets seem to fall more into the lyrical style, or certainly to be concerned with making themselves more accessible... Would be interested to know your opinion on this.

(Oh, and entirely agree about song lyrics being poetry - you've only got to listen to the wonderful Gil Scott-Heron's songs to know that!)
rich harris Profile
rich harris answered

I think that the Internet and technology has made a platform for anyone wishing to put something out there. Before you had to wait for someone to listen to you and take you seriously. These days we have an audience at our fingertips. I think it's a good thing. Look at MySpace. It launched a lot of now well known names. If it wasn't for that, they might still be undiscovered.

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Yo Kass
Yo Kass commented
Thanks for the answer Rich! Saw Allen's post above, with the YouTube clip and immediately thought of you!

How successful has your YouTube campaign been in spreading your material, and have you found any other online resources to be valuable?
rich harris
rich harris commented
I had to start a new channel so starting from scratch. The old channel was doing very well but looked a bit amateur. New channel if you want to see the changes? I'm also pushing them on Twitter, fb and G+. There's a large audience to reach online, it's definitely the best way for me to promote what I do.
Adila Adila Profile
Adila Adila , As a Published Poet myself..., answered

I love poetry, and to think that modern-day lyrics are a form of poetry is WRONG and just not right!

These music artists have not the slightest idea what poetry even is! Bruno Mars's song "Amazing", for example, is the most simplistic song ever . My 8 year old brother could write that—it doesn't take a genius to write song lyrics!

Westlife songs, on the other hand, are different. It does take a genius to write them because they are not simple love songs , they have more meaning like "Us Against The World" and "Swear It Again" . However even WESTLIFE don't understand the art of poetry....real poets have not lost their meaning just yet! Poetry still exists!

Yes, it's true that poetry has become more modern, however when I write my poetry I make sure it has all the elements of true poetry and writing skills.

I am a modern poet however that does not mean I write whatever comes to mind simply. I mould together the ideas I have in mind and voila! I create artistic's not like a song lyric , that I never count as poetry—I feel like it would be an insult to Lord Byron and William Wordsworth.

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Adila Adila
Adila Adila commented
Eminem's lyrics? Okay its a clever form of poetry but it goes nowhere, Simply talking about your life and your views and then rapping about it is a dull way to show the world your talents. Plus the words don't flow...I don't feel it. If you get what I mean. Now Gill Scott-Heron, his lyrics are a taboo. One that will live on. Still though neither of these appeal.
Adila Adila
Adila Adila commented
I like Lord Byron, his epic poem of Don Juan is a classic.
Melinda Moore
Melinda Moore commented
That's interesting, thank you. Wasn't sure what you meant by Gil Scott-Heron's lyrics being a taboo, though?

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