11 December 2008

Let's Speculate: Poetry and the New Frugality

I usually only think of the word "economy" when I'm telling my students about economical language. But lately I've had no choice but to speculate, in sort of a wide-eyed and curious way, about what effect the economic crisis will have on poetry. So much good writing has been produced during times of hardship. Do you think that we're in for a poetic upheaval?

Will more people write poetry because it's too expensive to go to the movies? Will writers embrace the "new frugality" by returning to the pared-down syntax of yesteryear, or will language be a great free indulgence, our poems getting fatter as our wallets grow thinner?

Will there be a flux of lush concrete imagery, now that our real life cornucopias are only sporting a few measly gourds and walnuts?

Will we write formal poetry to compensate for the decadent company parties we're no longer attending, the tuxedos we are not renting?

Will writers attempt more "love poetry" and have more sex because it's so costly heating a home in today's economy? Will we still binge-buy on amazon? Will we write a lot of horrible poems about the recipes we tried to make ourselves, but that were utter, inedible failures?

Or will this all have no effect whatsoever?

Let's speculate.


Jay Robinson said...

Poets, most of whom aren't exactly in the upper middle class by any means, will certainly be affected by the economic downturn. Not only in their day-to-day lives, but in the types of poems that get written. Poetry is often a mirror of the moment, and crisis has a way of pushing the most significant issues of human experience to the forefront. The poetry will reflect that....

However, what kind of outlet will poets have? Poetry already is, when the economy is good, a difficult thing to fund and publish. What will be interesting is that we're likely to see some of the most significant poetry of the last few decades perhaps offset by the difficulty of finding a way and a place to have the voice of those poems heard.

Penultimatina said...

Hmm. That's some heady stuff, Jay. It's funny, because even though the starving artist theory does apply for poets (if there is a theory), especially student poets, poetry also seems to be a bourgeois art form at times. A luxury.

Of course, you're right--we all rely on the same mechanisms to promote our work, so even if some poets are more financially sound than others, we're all subject to the downturns and upturns of arts organizations and the like.

Michael said...

I've recently blogged on some of the challenges that the economic condition presents to traditional publishing, grants, etc. Lean times for those shopping their first manuscripts for publication.

Perhaps it is just my romantic side, but I do imagine these times stimulating as Jay suggests, the human experience into verse. Katrina birthed some magnificent work. Low points in history seem to do that. I guess I envision a creative renaissance and a very strained business model for bringing the work to the people. Perhaps this is the necessity of invention.

Matt said...

Right on. Too bad you can't buy a stock option on the value of poetry in 10 years.

Wealth begets fluff. Boy bands were the result of the gilded dot com age.

Good art comes out of real emotion, and it's hard to have real emotion without some form of hardship. If you're too comfortable, you can lose your creativity just like Axl did.

Emerging Writer said...

Equally in tough times, people want reassurance and stories with happy endings. Small treats such as paperback books, lipstick and chocolate sell well. Perhaps we could sell poems like these

Take on May

It's the first day of finals week and I already have that loopy off-my-routine feeling. Waiting for things to grade, and when those ...