Friday, March 28, 2014

Everyday Reading

The other day, I was reading: Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular culture in Modern America.

"Everyday Reading is the first full-length critical study of the culture surrounding American popular and commercial poetry in the twentieth century. Exploring poetry scrapbooks, old-time radio show recordings, advertising verse, corporate archives, and Hallmark greeting cards, among other unconventional sources, Mike Chasar casts American poetry as an everyday phenomenon consumed and created by a vast range of readers in different and complex ways."

It was telling me a lot of stuff I already knew. But I don't think it's been written about much before.

He refers to the "poetry wars" of the 1930s. This was the period in which the high-brow free-verse modernists seized the word "poetry" for their own, and relegated the low-brow rhymers to the lesser order of "verse".

Just the other night, my father was talking about his own verse-writing. Yes, it's inherited apparently. Anyway, he said he was always careful to describe his writing as verse, not poetry. He was born in 1927, so he grew up in the heat of the poetry wars.

The high-brow / low-brow distinction, so arduously put forward in the modernist period, has taken a beating in more recent times. Post-modernist criticism, which is fascinated with popular culture, has not been kind to the the snooty.

But, still, modernism remains ascendant, conceptually, in the parts of the arts that are called serious. And, still, it sells to a small audience, the high-brows, who have read up on the theory of what they are consuming, and the would-be high-brows, who are trying to absorb some culture and thereby raise their brow status.

As for me, I persist, like a child,
singing what I want and running wild.

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