I'm picking up on the Friday poet's inbox series, only today's question is not inspired by e-mail question. Rather, it's inspired by claims and attitudes I've seen online and in person about what type of poetry is the best.
I've seen this attitude expressed in many different ways. The most common is for Poet X to claim that Poetry X is the best kind of poetry, and that Poetry Y and Z are not up to snuff. Or a poet may question why rhyming poetry doesn't seem to get published as much as free verse. Or free verse poets take on both traditional forms and prose poets.
But I'm going to phrase it as a question, "What is the best type of poetry?"
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What is the Best Type of Poetry?
The answer is, yes.
Yes, poetry is the best type of poetry. The strength of poetry is not found in a slice of a slice of a slice. The strength of poetry is not found in a specialized nook and/or cranny of the poetisphere. No, poetry's strength is it's gigantism.
Poetry's strength is that one stage can hold a haiku master, sonneteer, slam champion, experimental language poet, lyricist, free verse storyteller, prose poet, blackout erasurist, French form rhymer, and still have room for a variety of other poets.
In Section 51 of Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," the poet seems to speak for poetry:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Poetry can often contradict itself; poetry is large; poetry contains multitudes; and that is the strength of poetry.
The Best Sort of Poem
What is the best sort of poem then? Is it all good to everyone? Of course not. What appeals to one poet will not matter to another poet, but that doesn't mean it's not all valid. (Knee braces aren't for everyone, but they're invaluable to those who need them.)
On Twitter yesterday, I made the off-hand tweet that the best sort of poem is the one you write. And I do believe that's partially true. Writing poetry often helps the writer as much (or more) than the reader. But it's not the whole truth.
The best sort of poem is the one that makes you feel. It could be a haiku, a sestina, or a slam performance. It could be a poem you've read or heard; it could be a poem you've written. It could be a poem that tells a tale, a poem that makes little sense (but arouses the senses), a poem that breaks lines, or a poem that doesn't.
My sincere hope is that everyone is able to experience the best sort of poems, whether they're reading or writing them (or, of course, both).
Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, which means he maintains this blog, edits a couple Market Books (Poet’s Market and Writer’s Market), writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, leads online education, speaks around the country on publishing and poetry, and a lot of other fun writing-related stuff.
He loves the variety that poetry offers, but he's not a big fan of poets breaking into poetic gangs that try to put down one form of poetry in favor of their own. He is also the author of Solving the World’s Problems.
Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.