Is poetry inaccessible?

I think that poetry is the freest form of writing of them all. It doesn’t have to be bound by rules and it doesn’t have to do anything but what the writer wants it to. Alongside this, poetry can also be entirely up to interpretation, with the meaning set by the reader. For me, that is what makes poetry extremely accessible to all. The writer is free, but so is the reader. 

Poetry is completely subjective, and I’d argue its form gives it a lot of openness. With poetry, you can do anything with language, form, rhythm and as a reader, you can take each word in any way and play around with the interpretation. Though this may make specific meaning harder to understand, it’s the mystery and the uncertainty that makes me love poetry so much. Everyone reads it differently and it means poetry is such a unique experience. 

Poets write for poets. It is a cycle as old as the Romantics and one which continues unto today. At some point, poetry became not just an art but an institution; a verifiably elitist one, its gateways bared with a need-to-know knowledge of form, structure, meter.

Unlike the popular appeal of paperback fiction, the essence of poetry – its entire character and life – survives off the qualities which set the medium apart and that are intrinsic to the way it communicates meaning. There is a reason why the shelves of poetry remain so bare: the summer romance with elitism was never broken.

Although professionals and amateurs alike have attempted to correct course, when students of Creative Writing are encouraged to write within this self-perpetuating framework, the prospect of opening up poetry appears a lost and confused cause. So, the cycle continues – and undergraduates write for undergraduates for now.

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Leia Butler and Tristan Pollitt

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October 2021
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