Disaffected Prep

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Sentence of the Day: Trenchant Prose

In honor of Shark Week, the Discovery Channel's annual weeklong series of television programs devoted to sharks, Poets.org has compiled 35 Poems about Sharks, and examined how the animals have been represented in classic and contemporary poetry.

-From the Academy of American Poets e-mail newsletter, August 3rd 2009

Even in the first five words, I knew this sentence was a winner. In honor of Shark Week... Because, I suppose, it is some sort of religious holiday, and we-must-genuflect amidst the awesomeness of (the honorable!) Shark Week.

Beyond that, though, the absurdity rang through - the Academy of American Poets and... Shark Week? Please insert a Scooby-Doo "Arrrguuugh?" reaction here. Perhaps an early frontrunner for the most bizzare PR mash-up of the year.

Though, this is the wrong way to think about this, I realized later. Poetry is, after all, the red-headed stepchild of the arts. While visual artists, muscians, actors, novelists enjoy mainstream critical (and sometimes commercial success), poets occupy a perceptual corner somewhere along the lines of "cute". Needless to say, you don't go into poetry for the money.

Part of this is the Academy's own doing. Most of contemporary poetry doesn't engage a modern reader. It's obtuse and written by creative writing instructors for other creative writing instructors.

So back to Shark Week and the Academy of American Poets. Is it ridiculous? Yes. Is it improbable and slightly bizarre? Absolutely. But it's a good thing, over all. Anything to get people reading more poetry is a net positive, and anything to push poetry beyond the archetypal New Yorker entry (Oh look! CK Williams wrote about Death!) and into our mainstream awareness and everyday cultural dialogue is better - even if it tags along with Shark Week to do so.

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