Modern Poetry Smackdown: Stour of the Intellectual Giants

4 mins read

Today, we’ll be featuring a debate between two experts on the state of modern poetry, Sir Philip Sydney and our own Ian Davis.

Kenny: Thank you both for being here!

Ian: It’s my pleasure. An honor to be here with the masters, Sir Philip, Kenny. You are looking well, Sir Philip.

Sir Philip: Thank you for your kind words, young man. This is a welcome idyll to be sure.

Kenny: Now, Sir Philip, in 1595 your famous Apology for Poetry was published. In it you noted that poetry required defense, as it had “fallen to be the laughing-stock of children,”  Would you still defend the medium today?

Sir Philip: Well, according to the principle that self-love is better than any gilding to make that seem gorgeous wherein ourselves are parties, I daresay that I would defend poetry were I still writing it. I would not defend something merely bearing the name poem, however, but rather the true form.

Ian: What would that true form be, Sir Phillip? True to what, to whom?

Sir Philip: True and as such a music of text, the art of being entirely itself and not merely prose dressed up in false signature.

Ian: And wherein the difference between prose and poetry? I have met prose more musical than the tightest iambic tunes, prose woven a clip closer than any clunking wooden feet.

Sir Philip: You were well met then indeed! In my day poetry was unmistakeable as it was bound by form. My statement is in truth a fleer at the need for a marriage of style and substance to justify the title poem. Lack of punctuation does not suffice.

Ian: I believe we can both agree on that union, Sir Phillip. I’d be interested, good sir, to hear what you think of the place of poetry in today’s society?

Sir Philip: “No man is an island,” as Mr. Donne said, and yet today Poetry is itself largely an island unto itself. It has grown less subservient to society and yet also more self referential and fautous therefore. I think that I prefer the strictures of place and tradition to the freedom of isolation.

Ian: I disagree, Sir Philip. Currents are perpetually carrying unknown luggage from land to land – no island is an island, one might say. And I cannot condemn the whole of modern poetry to the failures you note. But that is, perhaps, a subject that calls for more length than is in the day.

Sir Philip: I would gladly hear your worthy thoughts at greater length, Ian.

Ian: And I, sir, would like to know where you got such a fine ruff.

Kenny: Well I can see that you two are more inclined to converse as colleagues than engage in fatal combat. Let me ask you then if there are any modern poets you particularly commend.

Sir Philip: I am partial to Anne Carson.

Ian: My dear man, we are united there.

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