Very interesting discussion. Over the years I’ve heard some sentiments to the same effect and as a poet I have to stick up for the art. Yes, there are some bad poems out there and some poets who strive to be mysterious, but many poets really want to express and share. But the art of poetry is just that, an art. And not everyone will get it, but that doesn’t negate the art, does it?
I’ve found that often, those who say they can’t understand poetry have either put up barriers against it or that they just don’t want to. Poetry is words- if you can understand words, then you should be able to understand poetry. 🙂 Shakespeare wrote for the common man, yet we have generations of people who say they don’t understand him. But if you “forget” that you can’t understand the Bard and just listen and give it a try, you will be surprised at how much you understand!
As for why don’t poets just write in prose, well, that isn’t how poets write. Poetry is more compact, more concrete. I find that the poems that resonate the best with me are ones that act more like snapshots-they capture a single moment or truth. Poets don’t have a need (usually) to ramble on for hundreds of words when they can express that moment or truth in less.
And some poets write more than poetry- I know that I write poetry, short stories, novels, and many other things… sometimes an idea works as a poem but won’t work as a short story. And some ideas need a whole novel to explore.
Okay- I think that’s about what I wanted to say (and you can all tell Robert over on Poetic Asides that I’m doing my duty as Poet Laureate to advance the understanding and appreciation of poetry!). And come over to the Poetic Asides forum and talk shop–you might discover some new poetry that you might like!