Poetry's Millennial Resurgence a Beacon of Hope
January 23, 2019 5:53 AM   Subscribe

An interesting trend in the U.K. shows a dramatic rise in poetry consumption as millennials struggle to gain clarity in a politically tumultuous time. Traditionally, poetry has been used as a graceful way to express complex thought and emotion - while its widespread resurgence to this effect may be hinting at a cultural nostalgia in the younger generation for simpler times in the face of climate disaster, polarization and leadership upheaval, poetry being called upon during times of political strife is not unheard of.

Good poetry asks us to pause and reflect. It calls us to mindfulness, to awareness, to thoughtful engagement with what is being put forth. It can be a punch in the gut, or a call to grace. It can make the ugly, the shameful, the unexpressed, the dark, seem whole - feel understood - as the therepeutic tendrils of poetic verse delicately pry in curious exploration. Its popularity has always spoken to the beautiful human affinity for eloquence and connection in the face of confusion; for redemption in the face of harrowing uncertainty and extreme circumstances. It's application to today's justifiably confusing times is testament to the endurance of the human spirit (in a format easily compatible with modern technology and social media, of course), and an ode to the ever-present call to truth.
posted by TruthfulCalling (33 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
Interesting, but this article doesn't give any evidence that young people buying poetry is a new phenomena. Additionally, if you look at the graph, the increase in puchases is not dramatic.
posted by demiurge at 6:21 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Interesting, but this article doesn't give any evidence that young people buying poetry is a new phenomena.

But they're millenials.
posted by thelonius at 6:24 AM on January 23 [8 favorites]


According to the article, a large chunk of them are actually the post-millenial, college-age demographic.
posted by demiurge at 6:31 AM on January 23


BABY BOOMERS PROBABLY: “Stop writing poetry about avacados and get a job!!”
posted by Fizz at 6:33 AM on January 23 [5 favorites]


The second link in the post contains multiple links to some stunning poetry. Thanks so much for posting this.
posted by luaz at 6:36 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


I recently heard Eve Ewing describe her vision for poetry in our society and it gives me shivers:

"I want to go outside and sit outside and go see poetry outside and I want there to be tacos. I have models for that 'cause I live in Chicago. Like Bluesfest. Every year, people go to Bluesfest, some of them are hardcore blues fans and some of them just want to be outside and drink pop in the grass. That is the stature that I want poetry to have in our city. I want it to be like, hardcore poetry fans are like, 'I got to the block party every year' and I want people that are just like, 'I just came 'cause the ice cream truck was present.' That is my dream, for poetry to have that stature in our city and in our society."

from AirGo Episode 102: Eve Ewing Returns (at 19:54) (Soundcloud link)
posted by yaymukund at 6:46 AM on January 23 [7 favorites]


I read Jos Charles' feeld (2018) last weekend and it's some of the most exciting poetry I've read in quite a while. Highly recommend.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:46 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


poetry and 'simpler time' don't go together for me
posted by es_de_bah at 6:52 AM on January 23


According to the article, a large chunk of them are actually the post-millenial, college-age demographic.

And what I would be interested in knowing is if their consumption patterns are any different than people in that age bracket during any other generation, which would be far more telling than a slight upward trend overall. That tends to be a very exploratory, introspective age in general, but I wouldn't be shocked if generation z are extremely inwardly focused to mitigate uncertainty. Which counters with other research that states that they are rigid and extremely focused on their careers.
posted by Young Kullervo at 6:52 AM on January 23


Great, now they killed prose.
posted by escabeche at 7:08 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Anecdotally, I have noticed a lot more talk of poetry on my twitter, and it does seem like younger people are reading contemporary poetry more than people did when I was young. That's not to say that it's some kind of massive trend, but I've noticed it enough to be a bit surprised. Some of the poetry is even fairly good, whereas when I was young I avoided contemporary poetry like the plague because all I ever seemed to encounter was overdramatic personal rather whiny pieces that relied on READING them in the POET'S voice !!!! -style dramatics.
posted by Frowner at 7:28 AM on January 23 [5 favorites]


Rattle: Poets Respond (i.e., curated publication of poems that respond to news events within the previous week) has been very meaningful to me of late. There's some very strong work here.

(It actually inspired me to write the first poem I've written in over a decade [wasn't selected for publication, but that's fine--what do you expect for 10 years rusty] and I'm hoping that will lead to more)
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:28 AM on January 23 [10 favorites]


Anecdotally, I have noticed a lot more talk of poetry on my twitter, and it does seem like younger people are reading contemporary poetry more than people did when I was young. That's not to say that it's some kind of massive trend, but I've noticed it enough to be a bit surprised. Some of the poetry is even fairly good, whereas when I was young I avoided contemporary poetry like the plague because all I ever seemed to encounter was overdramatic personal rather whiny pieces that relied on READING them in the POET'S voice !!!! -style dramatics.

I was born into the wrong generation.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:36 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


...whereas when I was young I avoided contemporary poetry like the plague because all I ever seemed to encounter was overdramatic personal rather whiny pieces that relied on READING them in the POET'S voice !!!! -style dramatics.

It sounds like maybe you encountered the lower tier of the poetry slam thing. But there are also non-slam poets like that.....with a very self-involved or even self-indulgent view of what writing should be.
posted by thelonius at 7:52 AM on January 23


Frowner said, "Some of the poetry is even fairly good, whereas when I was young I avoided contemporary poetry like the plague because all I ever seemed to encounter was overdramatic personal rather whiny pieces that relied on READING them in the POET'S voice !!!! -style dramatics."

To continue the Bluesfest metaphor, isn't this like saying "I can't stand pop songs because they have simple melodies?" That's okay! Nobody's making you like pop music, even if it's really popular. There's a lot of music between uh, Wagner and Coldplay.
posted by yaymukund at 7:57 AM on January 23


POETRY SUPPLIES REACH NEW LOW

The supply of poetry is down again this week, with the National Poetry Reserve down to 43% of normal levels for this time of year. The decrease is blamed on increased poetry consumption among so-called "millennial" users accustomed to "cool" media to a greater extent than their forebears. The Organization of Poetry Exporting Countries (OPEC) has once again voted to maintain production at current levels, leading some to fear that supplies may reach dangerously low levels before the end of the northern-hemisphere winter reading season. The front-month small press poetry contract closed at £89-3/8.
posted by sfenders at 8:01 AM on January 23 [13 favorites]


To continue the Bluesfest metaphor, isn't this like saying "I can't stand pop songs because they have simple melodies?" That's okay! Nobody's making you like pop music, even if it's really popular. There's a lot of music between uh, Wagner and Coldplay.

No, believe me, it's not. To continue the metaphor: Coldplay is a professional outfit. They may be boring and banal, but they put on a perfectly decent performance if you like that sort of thing. It's far more like "there's a lot of music between Wagner and your housemate who is a terrible guitarist and can't carry a tune but insists on practicing in the living room at 11pm".

Between about 18 and 25, I actually spent a lot of time in poetry-adjacent spaces and I am perfectly serious in saying that when I see small press/amateur poetry today, the average quality is a lot higher. To beat the music analogy to death: When I was growing up, radio-type pop music was far, far less inventive and interesting than it is now - there simply was no one mainstream producing work as visually and musically complex as, say, Lemonade. There were a handful of people, like Prince, who were artistically and commercially successful, but when I compare the musical landscape of my youth to today's, I am astonished by the range of things that are both popular and sophisticated.

Pop culture (and let's extend that to popular poetry) today is far, far better than it has been at any time since maybe the seventies. Part of that is the internet allowing for cross-fertilization and allowing small producers greater reach and influence, part of that is the size of the millenial generation, part of it is the changed economy which puts more resources toward commercial cultural production, part of it is other stuff about which I have no idea.

It's not that nothing worthwhile or interesting was produced in mainstream arts orgs and publications in the nineties, but things are far, far better now. The M Archive has been pretty widely read in my general random internet circles, for instance, and I assure you that nothing like it was widely read in similar circles in 1998.
posted by Frowner at 8:16 AM on January 23 [4 favorites]


Maybe Rik, the People's Poet was onto something.
posted by delfin at 8:32 AM on January 23


Inexplicably, no one has posted the William Carlos Williams poem with avacados in place of plums yet.
posted by vocivi at 8:42 AM on January 23 [6 favorites]


Oops meant to mention how much I enjoyed Tropic of Squalor by Mary Karr recently. It was the first book of poems I’ve purchased in five years probably.
posted by vocivi at 8:45 AM on January 23


I have wasted my life
posted by chavenet at 8:50 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


dlugoczaj: Rattle: Poets Respond (i.e., curated publication of poems that respond to news events within the previous week) has been very meaningful to me of late. There's some very strong work here.

Holy cats, this is great!

I am a few decades out from an English degree, and only now really finding poetry to love. These things are fantastic. Some of the appeal could be because they are current and relevant and immediate, but the language and images are really good.

Thank you so much, dlugoczaj!!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:57 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


Inexplicably, no one has posted the William Carlos Williams poem with avacados in place of plums yet.

Because we aren't monsters who keep avocados in the icebox.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:04 AM on January 23 [6 favorites]


A-and who could ever eat all the avocados anyway?
posted by chavenet at 9:20 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Wow, thanks for the link, dlugoczaj! Can't wait to explore that.

I adore poetry and have read it all my life, but I've noticed the last few years that it's been harder to find new poets, which I attribute more to my own shortcomings due the whole "I'm getting older and other things take up my time" that is also affecting my ability to find new music. (It's out there for sure but I've been slowly losing the knowledge of where to look, if you know what I mean.) And quite frankly, browsing at the bookstore doesn't work as well as it used to because anymore it's usually the same poets as the poetry section has been slowly downsized (like many other sections). So if this is true I'm quite excited by this and hope it leaks into poetry sales and that poems start popping up in non-literary focused tumblrs and the next thing you know there's poem graffiti popping up on walls and the streets become absolutely wild with poetry.

Hahahahaha okay, I may be overreaching in my hopes a little, but hoping to see some new poetry in the bookstores seems reasonable.
posted by barchan at 9:21 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]


I rely on the recommendations from my local bookstore
posted by thelonius at 9:39 AM on January 23


My philosophy has been veering to Pessimism (of the Schopenhauer/Mainlander/Leopardi kind).

In the process of reading/learning about it, it seems there are a LOT of pessimists who write poetry. Leopardi is probably the most well known one. So yeah I guess it makes sense.

I didn't realize that there's a tie-in with the Romantics and Pessimism, as well, so that's one more connection, considering the Romantics contribution to the arts/poetry/etc...
posted by symbioid at 10:04 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


As Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith said once, paraphrasing Lucille Clifton: poetry can comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
posted by wicked_sassy at 10:16 AM on January 23


I have wasted measured out my life with coffee spoons.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:32 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


if you look at the graph, the increase in puchases is not dramatic.
spending went from £7.8 to £12.3 in 5 years, an increase of 58%. That feels fairly dramatic to me?

Although I follow US poetry twitter probably more than UK, I agree that it seems like social media is a real boon to younger poets as a way to get a taste of their work out to prospective audiences and may be driving higher sales. And say what you will about Amazon, it also makes it so much easier to get your hands on genres such as poetry where print runs are typically quite small. It's literally a handful of clicks to go from reading a great poem on Twitter to having their latest collection on your Kindle.
posted by drlith at 10:59 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


spending went from £7.8 to £12.3 in 5 years, an increase of 58%.

What happens if you subtract the growth in book prices -- or was that controlled for?

(Sorry, but my belief in the robustness of the statistical analysis by poets isn't exactly Hulk-like in strength.)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:15 AM on January 23


If book price inflation is keeping pace with the general market inflation, then the increase is still 45%, which is still impressive to me for a mature industry.
posted by drlith at 11:26 AM on January 23


IDK, Kate Tempest's set at Glastonbury certainly put poetry into the mainstream press as something that might be actually be cool. That was pretty unprecedented in my lifetime. She has released a book of different material since, here she is talking about it with Scroobius Pip. The podcast also includes some opinions on why podcasting is important which I found amazing.
posted by asok at 4:01 PM on January 23


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