This week, the literary world was astir with indignation at Alexandra Petri’s Washington Post article “Is Poetry Dead?,” in which her argument was “well, mostly.” Of Richard Blanco’s inaugural poem, Petri writes, “It was a good poem, within the constraints of what poetry means now. But I think what we mean by poetry is a limp and fangless thing.” Claiming that poetry is obsolete in part because it doesn’t “change anything” anymore, she goes on to compare poets to the Postal Service: “a group of people sedulously doing something that we no longer need, under the misapprehension that they are offering us a vital service.” Ouch.
The “is X dead” argument is a frustrating and perennial one, and often rather pointless. Replace every instance of “poetry” in Petri’s article with “ballet” or “opera” and her claims will work just as well, but be (in this humble writer’s opinion) just as misguided. Is an art form dead just because it is only appreciated by a minority? In that case, many art forms have always been dead. After the jump, we offer ten excellent reasons why poetry isn’t the least bit dead, in the form of excellent books of poetry that have recently emerged — with barbaric yawps, perhaps — in this country. And yes, there are hundreds more — flesh out our list in the comments.
Slow Lightning, Eduardo C. Corral
This stunning debut, published this past April, stalks the borderlands of English and Spanish, fabulist and realist, here and there, with a backpack filled with shifting identifications — Chicano, gay, abnormal — that spill out into the sand. We couldn’t have titled this collection any better than Corral did.