The Pros and Cons of Contemporary Poetry

The pros and cons of “Tumblr” poetry.

Recently, with all of these poetry collections floating around (mostly in the form of captions on Tumblr posts), I decided to give some of them a whirl and see how I get on with it.

I am not a big poetry savant, however, I do enjoy poetry. Certain kind of poetry at least. I like poetry that is raw, and deeply emotional, with a cutting language to it, and convoluted symbolism. I really loved Michel Faber’s Undying, which left me a complete wreck, and I also enjoyed Nin Andrews’ Why God is a Woman (you can read a review on it HERE ). So I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. Turns out I wasn’t overly impressed.

The first one I read was the most hyped up one, Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur. And I felt nothing. See, this kind of poetry is painstainkingly simple. It’s mostly just a single sentence that is deemed a poem. Now this has it’s pros and cons. The pro is that if someone can make you feel something in a single sentance, the power of that poem is huge. If you read a sentence and think wow and you actually feel something, than that is something really precious. The flip side however, is that it’s too simple. It means nothing. There’s a faux deepness that is trying to scream at you, and it’s failing. You feel nothing. This is what Milk & Honey was for me. Simple, and superficial, while desperately trying not to be.

Then I read The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace (great title btw). I prefered this one to the previous book, but it still suffered from the same predicament. I did love some of the poems in here, especially ones that deal with sisters and family. Moreover, another pro of contemporary poetry that shined in this one is the poem structure. Lovelace does some amazing things with structuring her verses, so the poem becomes something more, it becomes a visual thing. I really appreciated that. Of course, the con of this is that at times, the poem itself suffers for the sake of a pretty visual structure. Which did happen for some poems.

Next on my list was Lang Leav’s The Universe of Us. Now this one was the one I probably had most problems with. The poems made me feel absolutely nothing. Also, another thing you see in contemporary poetry is that the poems aren’t actually poems. They are short passages, which have no structure what so ever, none of the rythm you expect of poetry, This one was filled to the brimmed with those kinds of poems. And I for one really hated that.

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire is one I am most conflicted about. This one is highly informative and eye opening, filled with poems that truly leave you with a sense of wonder. That’s another pro of modern poetry – it tackles important subjects, like race, religion, feminism etc. However, on the flip side, most of these went a bit over my head and I could not understand all of the references. Which is fine, it just lowered my personal overall enjoyment.

And finally, my personal favorite, Salt. by Nayyirah Waheed. This one uses all of the pros of contemporary poetry and avoids all of the cons. It tackles race and feminism in a beautiful way. It has one sentence poems that leave you unsettled and leave you feeling. Just feeling. The collection is smart and emotional and passionate and angry and I really enjoyed it. I’ll leave you with a poem that really hit the nerve and made me think and which I feel encompasses the collection beautifully:

you still want to travel to
you could not take a camera with you.
– a question of appropriation

So there’s my review(s?) of contemporary poetry through some of the most popular poetry collections. I would love to hear your thoughts? Have you read any of these? Do you like poetry? If so what kind? Leave all your thoughts in the comments below!


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9 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Contemporary Poetry

  1. I haven’t read any contemporary poetry, and don’t really like poetry in general. I’ve always thought it’s been somewhat overhyped, and one of the reasons people like it a lot is because it talks about feminism, but I don’t believe that really makes it GOOD. I’ll probably never really read these, but it’s nice to see your thoughts on all of them! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree! Some of tnem have been so highly praised for their feminist content, and it’s not even that great? The ideas ate very basic and simple, and yet people are so quick to deem it feminist and then good by default

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a huge fan of Lang Leav, The Universe of Us didn’t please me much, but I definitely loved Memories, especially “Birthdays”. I love poems that have a certain sense of nostalgia and longing underneath.
    I totally agree with what you say about Milk and Honey. I’ve read it several times and not one of the pieces really seems to resonate with me, as sad as that is.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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