On the decline of literacy

“People don’t realize how a man’s whole life can be changed by one book.”
― Malcolm X

72

All these stanzas look alike
they talk about the same things
with the same words, the same poem

written over and over again
like voices, whispers, copying each other
unable to feel and trust experience
differently, socialized for homogeneity

unified but dull, strong but obedient
their writing seemed the narratives
of machines unable to innovate

plagiarizing voices they believed were
their own, authentic, pure
their literary journals were a politics
of masters of arts and agendas of contests

like car commercials without a proper
enjoyment of speed, or our favorite writers
whose names we only knew because

they were the ones who died at the right time
while somebody was looking, reading them
but the bookstores didn’t know their
metaphors were weak, or their life’s work

was merely symbolic, that’s the thing isn’t it
poets are only symbols, as poems are only
fluff, paper, the labor of writers-in-residence

while the rest of the world are more
interested in serial killers and which stocks
might be worth getting into, and when to sell out
investing in words seemed silly to them

and, in my selected works there was nothing
of how to be a Poet Laureate or how to win prizes
exceptional or not, publication was left to amazon

state grants, fellowships, visiting writers
academics who never felt truly how to write
poetry at its heart was a colonization of artists
few could share what that meant, we were

the first illiterate generation, spending more time
with the internet than with books.

3 thoughts on “On the decline of literacy

  1. I really appreciate this commentary on our illiteracy in this country. When I was growing up being a poet was considered only for the hippies and I was shamed for my writing. Now, I don’t know. I think kids are dual in nature. Part of them are drawn to the ready made no effort worlds of games, yet part of them have a deeper, mystical understanding of life. We need to completely overhaul our educational system. Love your work!!

  2. Words, poems and writing are as permanent as the sands of time, always there and ever present but constantly shifting
    We may change our method of interaction (the internet), delivery (kindle, blogs) and the forums within which we discuss and share written works, even the language evolves to fit the generation it serves
    But even when we are beyond the stars and the upon far off planets we will still write, read and share words, however we may do it or the language we use to express it

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