An ode to thy…Sound familiar?
This can only be a reminder of either 19th century England or a long afternoon in an English classroom interpreting the work of poets such as John Keats or Elizabeth Browning. For many schoolchildren the memory of studying poetry, written long before their grandparents were born, isn’t exactly a fond one. These poems are often difficult to understand so trying to work out their elusive alternative meanings isn’t appealing to many people. Unfortunately, this is how the majority of young people first encounter poetry and this dreary image is what remains in their mind.
“the majority of young people only read poetry because the curriculum requires them to and not because of their own personal interest”
In today’s world, contemporary poets such as Rupi Kaur are challenging these confines by taking poetry back to its simplistic roots. Kaur’s own style of poetry in her book “Milk and Honey” deviates from using eloquent vocabulary, stripping everything away to raw words written on a page, only to be understood as they are. Her writing, as well as that of other modern poets, focuses on popular topics such as body positivity and female empowerment instead of just the style and form of the words. This broader focus shows how poetry has moved forward along with society.
On the other hand, many only read poetry because it is compulsory in school. Statistics show that the percentage of young people reading poetry outside of class in the UK dropped from 31% in 2005 to 17.4% in 2015. This suggests that the majority of young people only read poetry because the curriculum requires them to and not because of their own personal interest, indicating that it is no longer relevant in our fast-paced world.
— OpinionPanel (@OpinionPanelEd) October 3, 2018
Despite this, it is important to recognize that the work of many famous poets is still studied in schools and other educational facilities because it allows appreciation for the talent and skill of such poets. Also, an Ofsted report on Poetry in schools in 2006/07 found that “The majority of pupils expressed pleasure in both reading and writing poetry.” This reflects the fact that attitudes towards poetry are changing along with the wider range of poems being taught across schools in the UK. Poetry is, after all, a form of art. Studying older forms of poetry allows students to explore different writing styles, as well as develop ideas about why people write such pieces. It can be argued therefore, that poetry can never really become outdated. Language style may change over time, but the purpose of poetry stays the same. This purpose may be either to encourage people to understand why the poet has written what they have, or to just send people a message.
“it is poetry and music that we need to live, not just survive”
Nevertheless, it can be argued that poetry has no purpose in modern society where less and less people choose to read books for pleasure due to the fast evolvement of computer technology. Today, science usually takes the front seat in our development as humans, so people may often find themselves asking the question: “What does poetry actually do for us?” For this reason, many might decide that poetry, in itself, no longer serves any purpose to the human race and it is therefore futile to read or write it anymore.
However, it is worth pointing out that although science and medicine find us miracle cures to help us survive, maths and engineering help us build cities and skyscrapers, and law and politics allow us to live together and be treated fairly, it is poetry and music that we need to live, not just survive. The human race may evolve but our basic instincts will always remain the same and we will continue to seek out literature, as well as other arts, because we need them to enjoy our lives and give them meaning. In this sense at least, poetry can never become old fashioned.