Roses are Red, Poetry is Dead?

Poetry has long been heralded as a pretentious and elitist pastime, as the ability to recite well known works signified a solid education and an elevated social status. As an English major and lover of poetry I can’t really relate to the average person’s experience, but many claim its popularity is on a steady decline- at least in its traditional, printed form. However, its presence is still felt, or heard, in contemporary society.

Within the past few years, poems have been featured on three albums by popular musicians as spoken word (these are just the few instances that I have encountered, undoubtedly there have been more):

The powerful words of Warsan Shire, a 27 year old writer from London, were adapted to fit Beyonce’s voiceover in her 2016 visual album, Lemonade. Shire is of Kenyan and Somalian descent, and her poems deal with the themes of family, infidelity, and the black female body.

The ironically unapologetic tone of Reyna Biddy is voiced by Kehlani in the “Intro” track to her new 2017 album entitled SweetSexySavage. Biddy is a 22 year old from The Valley who dropped out of college after a year. Three months later she self-published her first collection of poems and amassed a large following on social media.

The work of one of THE major poets of the twentieth century, T.S. Eliot, is featured on Lana Del Rey’s 2015 album, Honeymoon, in the track “Burnt Norton- Interlude.” The poem by Eliot bears the same name and aligns with the themes of regret and loneliness about which Lana Del Rey is so often crooning.

This revival of poetry through the outlet of popular music is transforming an antiquated custom and making it more relevant through readily consumed media. Poetry is not extinct, but in fact evolving.