Welcome back to dVersePoets, poets and friends! I’m Chazinator and I’ll be your host again. Today, I’d like to look at the way modern poets attempt to confront the realities of everyday life. To do that we’ll consider how some poets expand the reach of poetry by incorporating non-poetic material into their work.

For a while after the advent of the modern world, poetry took many shapes to depict and describe the realities of modern-day life. As I have noted before, the Romantic poets often reacted negatively to the rise of industrialization and its associated capitalist cultural system. Poets often saw this in negative terms, and reacted by creating utopian, fantasy, or nature-inspired work that attempted to return to a world outside of modernity.

In France, the Symbolists arose to confront the gritty realities of modern life. The greatest Symbolist poet, Charles Baudelaire, is credited with coining the term modernism itself for art that does not shy away from the ephemeral, everyday dimensions of modern life. Baudelaire famously wrote,

By modernity I mean the transitory, the fugitive, the contingent which make up one half of art, the other being the eternal and the immutable.”
– Charles Baudelaire, “The Painter of Modern Life”

Baudelaire was talking in most respects about modern urban life. But the reality of the industrial world, along with its often anti-poetic mundanity, reaches into every corner of present-day realities.

Another aspect of modern life is the fractured nature of the way that the personality perceives the world. In the past, it was often conceived that poetry presented a unified personality, somehow at one with its object. With the disjunctions in time and psychologically, the notion of a self somehow divorced from itself, broken and shattered, began to take shape. In terms of poetry, this alienation produced by modern life must also be captured in all of its often harsh reality.

There is another aspect of modernism that took shape at the beginning of the 20th century. This is the idea that modern culture had finally identified the unitary nature of history and consciousness. With the rise of science and technology, it was believed that much of life could be depicted in works of art in its essential reality. Works by such artists as James Joyce, for example, attempted to include all of human history in their art.

In effect, then, we have artists attempting to grapple with the realities of a changed world and to depict it in their work. One such method was to incorporate into the work snippets of real-life that did not originate as art but instead were taken from their original matrix and by being placed in the aetwork were transformed. Marcel Duchamp is famous for this, as are artists like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, among numerous others. Another innovation in modern literature was the use of stream-of-consciousness, based on the work of William James, and used by such writers as Joyce, Woolf, Stein, and so on.

In poetry, Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams incorporated historical documents, newspaper clippings, diaries, letters and so on in their work. All in an attempt to present reality in all of its wholeness, poetic and anti-poetic. “No ideas but in things,” as Williams writes at the beginning of his epic, Paterson. Williams also wrote numerous poems using stream-of-consciousness.

Ezra Pound Reading from the Cantos

In this week’s prompt, write a poem that creates or evokes modern life, in all of its reality. To accomplish this, you might

  • write a poem that describes the fractured nature if the modern world
  • write a poem that incorporates newspaper clippings or other non-poetic material
  • write a stream-of-consciousness poem
  • transform unpoetic writing into poetry

Cool? Then let’s get it on. Here’s how it works:

  • Post a poem based on tonight’s theme to your blog.
  • Link in the poem you’d like to share by clicking on the Mr.Linky button just below.
  • This opens a new screen where you’ll enter your information, and where you also choose links to read. Once you have pasted your poem’s blog url and entered your name, simply click Submit.
  • Don’t forget to let your readers know where you’re linking up and encourage them to participate by including a link to dVerse in your blog post.
  • Visit as many other poems as you like, commenting as you see fit. Chances are if you comment on others they will comment on you. Funny how that works.
  • Remember, we’re here for each other. Engage your fellow poets, talk, chat, comment, let them know their work is being read, and enjoy the input you also will receive. Feel free to tweet and share on the social media of your choice.

Finally, enjoy–this is poetry alive.