“Does poetry matter?” Yes. No one watching a competitive slam by students would doubt it. Every elegy drafted for President Lincoln “mattered,” even the trite or amateurish ones. Elegies by Walt Whitman, Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes and Stanley Kunitz mattered then, and have since endured.
What’s at question is poetry’s vaunted status above other artistic disciplines. “It’s poetry and power all the way!,” President Kennedy wrote to Robert Frost, after Frost spoke at his inauguration. He didn’t write “It’s ballet and power all the way!” and it’s probably for the same reason we do not have a Sculptor Laureate.
But Jonathan Farmer found some of the odes to poetics a tad overwrought:
David Biespel’s piece isn’t crappy. In fact, much of it is lovely. But he … gets a little carried away: