“Poetry’s Future: The Medicine of Choice?” by Tracy Lynn Repchuk

tracyrepchuk500It seems in a day and age of technology, data streams and portable entertainment, it is no wonder how the quiet, speculative words of poetry fail to penetrate the public and awaken the passion within.

In a society where war, violence, crime, hate, insanity, and aberrations consume the airwaves, it is a miracle that we ever pick up a book. Especially those that are tucked away in the far reaches of a store and invite you to enter worlds filled with fantasy, love, romance, delights, and dreams.

As the Canadian Federation of Poets President and Founder, I have personally watched a trend that pushed poetry back to the coffee houses and educational institutions where clusters gather, from the global and national cohesive cord that it should be. From this unnerving discovery I put into motion a campaign that would eliminate the misconceptions of this enlightening medium, and return it to prominence. While on this journey I made some observations that poetry could remedy with the proper education and execution.

From my experiences teaching poetry as a featured speaker in classrooms ranging from grades one to college level, along the way the desire and need for poetry was gradually eliminated. At the childhood stage they are riveted to the comfort and mastery of nursery rhymes. At the youth level, pre-high school students use poetry as a coping mechanism. They write about their surroundings, feelings, emotions, and more importantly, clearly inscribed angst, anger, and the betrayal they start to feel about life. They write, whether it stem from a broken relationship, breakdown in communication with society, or an accumulation of apathy for the lack of power they possess to change their environment.

So how can we attack this decline in poetry? Highschools and education systems are a good place to start. The brilliance of Shakespeare has been used to alienate more passionate writers than inspire. What we need to do is reconnect youth with poetry, which will continue the evolution and appreciation through adulthood for the desire and necessity of poetry in their lives. In-depth reviews of great literary figures, studying scenes, reciting soliloquies and dissecting lines accomplishes a contra-survival realm that invalidates what students were creating (if you don’t write like Shakespeare – you’re not a poet), and erects a barrier that could take generations to remove. We seem dedicated to teaching literature, let’s just expand this by demonstrating poetry using the hundreds of ways to create a poem, from Haiku, to Cinquain, to Prose, to whichever method appeals to the student. Read excerpts from Shakespeare, or Dickens, or Poe, and even some living poets while we are at it – award winners they can relate to of what works today. We could recite the popular songs of the youth, so they relate to poetry always. Perhaps spending less time on literary analysis, and more on performing, public reading, writing, and articulating would not only promote its appeal, but help to instill confidence and communication skills for all situations. We would get far more dedicated advocates, far more passionate people about the importance of delivering a message, expressing a thought, providing an empathetic and cathartic release, and start to create a mankind that uses words and less extreme methods of coping with change and chaos.

With the next generation in place understanding the power of poetry they could venture outside their confined worlds, and address the more important tasks at hand. Creating a world where every time a doctor prescribed a pill, or someone purchased over the counter medications, we would recommend a particular poem instead. Most of our email, television and radio commercials, billboards, newspapers, make mention of drugs, herding us into becoming a nation of junkies. The exposure is reducing the lethal effects and stigma, and pharmaceutical giants are using this window to assault us with an endless stream of cures for what ails us, or could ail us, or will ail us if we don’t take it now. With twelve million children forced to take drugs for ‘abnormally high levels of activity’, if we don’t introduce new methods of coping soon, we’ll all be defenseless.

Let’s use poetry as a prescription to life’s aberrations instead. A bit of Adams for allergy relief, soothing Browning for that back ache, Chaucer for colds, Keats for ulcers, Parker for that migraine, Shelley for blood pressure, Yeats for stress, and the list goes on.

Amidst these profound words is a better solution. Not only would we revere poetry for what it is, a vital part of our culture, but it could provide a healthy alternative to our ill-fated practices and future.

So all in favor of Poetry Practitioners say “AYE”. Increase the health and welfare of mankind with this new technology, and reach for the Poet’s Handbook instead of a pill.