Poetry: “I don’t get it”

So it’s Tuesday night and I’m watching the inauguration.  I’m watching clips from the inauguration on Youtube, like you do.  I don’t have cable and many people were telling me about the clever things Jon Stewart had to say.  In a round about way, I was watching clips from “The Daily Show.”  Did anyone else see the inauguration poem?  The Youtube commenters certainly did and they weren’t very kind to the Richard Blanco the poet.

Their sentiment was plain through a flood of “I don’t get it” and “It doesn’t even rhyme!”  I would highly recommend reading the comments.  Oh Youtube, where the vox poluli has no social contract.  It’s like the Wild West, had the West been ruled by angry, cat molesting teenagers.

This has got me thinking about the amount of poetry I’ve been exposed to as an English major and general university student.  It has been substantial.  From American literature through British and World Lit, these are required I believe for most majors.  Yet so many people “didn’t get it.”

I respond, what is there to get?  The work itself, “One Today,” was about living in America; people wake up, go to work, work, and come home only to begin the next day.  That’s it; the things the ants do while poets stress over their navels and bloggers smell for clean shirts.  Mr. Blanco wasn’t asking you to consider the universe in the blossom of a lily.  He is offering a concise meditation on living one day to the next.

“I don’t get it” is admitting defeat without bothering to try.  Why?  Poetry is easy.  It’s not easy in craft mind you, but easy to “get.”  Poetry serves two primary functions: to change the world and get laid.  If one is gifted enough to both at the same time they’ll call you a genius and put your face on t-shirts after you die.

“But it didn’t rhyme,” you retort.  Yeah, I noticed that too.  Poems don’t have to rhyme.  It surprised me too.  You even have some clout dismissing unrhymed poetry; generations of clout from several fine schools of thought.  But for the last word I’ll actually defer to Lucifer, first of the fallen, “…Is it just me, or do poems that don’t  rhyme reflect a fundamental lack of effort?”