States have official birds, rocks and trees. Increasingly, they also have official poets. According to a list maintained by the Library of Congress, 44 states and the District of Columbia have poet laureate or writer in residence positions, with a number dating only from the last two decades or so.
The craze isn’t just happening at the state level. Boston and Los Angeles,among other cities, have established posts in recent years, while a Google search for “county poet laureate” yields thousands of hits.
“I’ve been to places where there is a poet laureate for every ZIP code,” Billy Collins, a former United States and New York State laureate, said. “The country is crawling with them. I think it’s out of control.”
When even the poets are complaining that there are too many jobs for poets, you know there's a problem. Most of this stuff is, to put it delicately, utterly terrible. Here is an example from the article:
Architects engineers laborers drivers Viva!/Lifters callers crane operators Viva!/Cement mixers cable threaders Viva!
Makes you want to pick up a jack hammer doesn't it?
If poetry is dead in the modern world it's because the poets have killed it. The modern stuff, as a rule, doesn't scan or rhythm but is instead a pretentious string of words striving for effect. The harder it strives the sillier the poem and poet become.
The craft of poetry is the hardest of all trades among writers. Any reasonably competent hack can make fun of Justin Trudeau's vapid comments, trust me I know, but poetry that stings and elevates is the rarest of things. You need to know language at a level that can't really be taught. When it works it's brilliant, when it fails it's pathetic. There is very little mediocre poetry in the way there is mediocre journalism, or novel writing or painting. The in-between just isn't there. That makes it hard, even in the best of circumstances, for a merely competent amateur to attract an audience. When its practitioners eschew the beauty and truth stuff you wind up with government subsidized doggerel.
Poetry, when done well, does have the power to move even in the most unlikely of places. Tennyson's Ulysses was quoted to brilliant effect in the last James Bond film. In between the usual naked lovelies and massive explosions was, with modest musical accompaniment, a middle aged woman reading a 170 year old poem by a dead white Englishman. It's one of the best scenes in the film. The director, Judy Dench and the editor all deserve credit for pulling it off so well. What makes it special, brings it that much higher, is Tennyson.
There is probably more poetry being written today than at anytime in human history. So very little of it is being read now. We can be reasonable certain that virtual none of it will be read a century from now.