Why Modern Poetry is Terrible and How We Can Change It

Excerpt from Maureen N. McLanes Conditional

Nika Anderson

Excerpt from Maureen N. McLane’s “Conditional”

Nika Anderson, Editor-in-Chief

In the twenty-first century, poetry has been reduced to atrociously unrelated sentences with line breaks. Society has apotheosised low-grade writers like Rupi Kaur only because their works are accepted under the guise of being uniquely diverse and progressive. Modernists claim that the quantity of new voices in poetry is amazing, but they fail to look into the quality of these new voices. There is a reason as to why most forms of contemporary poetry are truly dull, vapid, and overly pretentious.

Firstly, there are not any less good writers today than there were back in the nineteenth century. It is that the younger population is not being educated to write as well as they can. In the modern age, students are taught to write only about themselves and their identities. As Jonathan Graham from The Federalist puts it, “If people have to care about you before they care about your art, your readership is going to be small indeed.” Most younger writers who try to write confessional narrative poetry are self-absorbed and are focused on insular experiences that only concern themselves. It is in the educator’s power to enlighten generations with exemplary poetry that captures history and to make their students learn exactly why these works persist through the ravages of time.

Secondly, there is no openly direct criticism because society does not want to offend a writer’s “individuality” or “style.” This justifies the horrific grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation which often accompanies their work. As a result of this, people want to be writers and not readers. Society has lowered standards for what is considered adequate and this practice rewards bad poetry. There is no iconic work that is memorable from all of these new-age authors that do not even bother to use capitalization. True poets aspire to perfection, but modern poets aspire to glory and fame.

When learners are told that there are no rules to poetry, this type of work results. There is a small range of subject matter in these works and they do not encompass a broad topic that the audience can relate to as a whole. Unsurprisingly, the content of these poems turns out to be mass-culture inspired and intensely unoriginal. This monotonous mainstream poetry only manages to capture general sentiments and describes life within a mundanely capitalistic environment. Moreover, these works are written with vernacular diction that does not aspire to embody grand and complex concepts in the world. Writers should be shown why authoring obscenely juvenile poetry about first-world problems and identity politics will not earn their poems a place in history.

Structured and classic writing will endure for centuries while talentless books like Milk and Honey will be forgotten in the dustbin of time. Poets should be taught to make their poetry last for ages, instead of only writing for themselves.