By: Rachel Lyle, August 4th, 2017

Here is another Contemporary Lit Discussion board prompt: Looking across the poems posted rather than into them, try to track trends, changes, movements, and modes in contemporary poetry. As usual, construct about a page and use quotes to help your case.

We were, at this point, reading a collection of online contemporary poems. This one instead of writing my own answer to the prompt I wrote a reaction to another post by a another student named Katelyn Lucas.

This is what she wrote:

I think one of the largest trends in some of the poetry that I think makes it contemporary is the discussion of the old and the new, and how there perhaps is nothing new anymore, and how all of this relates to the concept of time.

The first and perhaps most obvious poem I saw this in was “Bodhisattva”. The repetition of the “new news” highlights the idea of the new yet then uses such a worn out phrase as “I love you” to finish the lines establishing the irony there that there is nothing new, not really, which is confirmed in the later line of “let’s give a new nod to nothing.” This giving a nod to nothing is I think an idea that is expressed in many of the contemporary texts we’ve analyzed so far in the sense that some of them don’t have endings and nod to nothing in that way, some of them seem not to have a “grand narrative” mindset and nod to nothing in that way, and some of them just plainly nod at the fact that nothing is real because memory isn’t real and time isn’t real and this post isn’t even real because I’m just typing it on a screen I can’t feel it on paper between my fingers but I can see it, so does that count?

I also saw related themes in the poem “In Memory of My Parents Who Are Not Dead Yet”. First of all, the title seems to express this idea of time and being hyper aware of these concepts that are not new like death but yet we are constantly trying to talk about them in a new way because we need to because they are still relevant. But also I really liked the line “It hurts not to be everyone else. If love dies it was already dead” because I think that expresses this idea fantastically as well. This desire to want to be everyone else is reflected in our thinking that we cannot be anything new anymore and we are continually referencing the old, so it hurts to not be those things we reference, those things that can stand alone without referencing anything else, though perhaps they did in their time but it doesn’t matter now. And love, too, is such a not new concept that we are always trying to make new that saying if it dies it was already dead is a wonderfully accurate paradoxical statement to describe that feeling.

This was my reaction to her post:

I agree in many ways contemporary poetry is an attempt to make the old into the new but at the same time it discusses and shows how nothing that now seems new is new anymore and it is just a recycling of the old from a time in the past. They attempt to make something new out of the old but in many ways fail because it may be a new version of the old but it is still the old and has all been done before. One specific example of a poem that I saw that does this is “WFM: Allergic to Pine-Sol, Am I The Only One”. The author attempts craft something new of old craigslist personal ads and make it seem like a poem. It does seem like she makes it into a poem that tells the story of a woman longing for a man in her life which it seems like it’s something new because the way she did it was with craigslist ads but this has kind of story has been told in poetry so many times before and in a way has become cliche, “Please have a car (truck preferably) and a job.,The first time we made love our souls connected and intertwined and seemed to remember they were destined for one another., Sexiness to me is you plus a photographic memory., I have no business expertise, but I’d love a guy who is good with rope.”. It also at the same time seems disjointed because if you try you can see where one part of an ad ends and another part of another one ends so they can still be seen as a just a list and a compilation of random seemingly unrelated craigslist ads that don’t make a story the way the poet is trying to do with this poem. so in many ways these poems are making the new out of the old but also can be seen as making more of the old out of the old. Contemporary poetry in many ways at first glance is seemingly different and new and making new out of the old but with a closer look it can be seem that it is really just cliche reuses of the old, recycling of old ideas that seem new and innovative but are really just the same things written from a different point of view, different vantage point. Because nothing is truly new anymore and the new ideas created by contemporary poetry are just old ideas being put forth by new people, being seen through a different lens, with the set of eyes of someone completely new and different from the rest.