Against Poetry

On the evils of modern verse

I have, for as long as I can recall, demanded a ten-year ban on the publication of new poetry. There is more now than ever before and all of it is terrible. As time has dragged on, more and more people have taken notice of the crisis:

A ten-year break will dissuade the amateurs and allow for perhaps three or four good poets to emerge from this long silence. It may prove a dismal failure. Every bearded, beret wearing freak from every blighted corner of the earth may once again fill Instagram (or whatever has superseded it) with unspeakable horrors.

Adorno, the impenetrable denizen of the “Frankfurt School,” said there can be no poetry after Auschwitz, but he was about thirty years off. Poetry went to hell when Wilfred Owen was killed in the dying days of the First World War. The slaughter of the “Great War” begat two things: mass culture and, well, more slaughter. This, in turn, took poetry down with it.

No doubt some of you will find exceptions. What about Celan or Pessoa? Borges or Plath? I would not dare denigrate these great poets, but who reads them when they are drowned out by all the bile?

It is an open secret here that publishers only churn out poetry books for grant money. These money-losing endeavours signal to the powers that be that publishers are not money-grubbing hounds but sensitive “artistes” who wish to raise our brows a little higher. If there was no grant money, there would be no poetry.

One could argue that too many people are writing and publishing, be it poetry or prose. And I agree. In an ideal world, we would write nothing down and not speak a word to anyone about anything. I direct my rage at poetry because it is presented as “deeper” and more “profound” than other writing. The crudely spaced missives are supposed to speak to our “inner experience” and the “unspoken truths” of mankind. We are told that poetry says what man cannot. In reality, poetry expresses what man should not, if, in fact, it expresses anything at all.

I myself am not immune to the vice-like grip of the poetic urge. Indeed, just a few weeks ago I published a “poem” in this very newsletter. It oozed out of me like pus from a bubonic boil, and, like a frilly trinket found at a yard sale, I just had to put it somewhere. It was, if nothing else, a call to be flogged in the public square. It speaks to the iniquity of the world that none of you turned up at my door and shot me dead.

Now, for those of you who have, by the grace of Jove, avoided poetry and the urge to write it, and think I’m just making this up to rabble-rouse, I have written a composite poem that encapsulates all the bad poetry written since the end of the First World War. I can only pray it will inspire you all to never write poetry again.

Oh, a vague lament!

It matters not if

the sun shines or

rain or hail falls,

whether the wind blows

or the thunder roars.

It’s all for background effect.

The night, the moon, the stars,

a garbage bin, three tomatoes,

a quart of milk, a box of

Graham crackers,

Mike, Jan, and Bobby.

These are the things I

see out my bedroom window,

my grocery list, and

half the Brady Bunch.

These things surround

and bind my mood.

A mood brought on

by something I cannot

broach directly, for fear

the people, places, and things

I’m referencing might get

wind of the fact

I’m writing poetry.

Besides, a poet’s talent

lies in vague specificity.

I cannot tell you Jane

once more rejected my overtures.


Quick! A play on word.

Oh, let’s see...

Have you noticed

Natalie Portman is

a portmanteau?

Ah, a reference to

a Greek or Roman god

and how the great battle

they fought for supremacy

over all that was, is,

and ever will be, neatly

corresponds to my situation.

Maybe a garbled paraphrasing

of a line from Ovid or Virgil

passed through several

broken telephones

to show I don’t exclusively

read the Moderns.

51 lines is enough.

It’ll take several Instagram

posts to capture it all.

Time to round it out with a

word dangling out in its own

to show the reader it’s very


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