Thursday, 16 January 2014

Concentrating the mind

Many poets seem to think the genre is in decline due to the arrival of the digital age. Is this really the case?

The afore-mentioned writers argue that poetry requires a degree of concentration which is beyond readers who have been brought up in the digital age, whose attention is dissipated far too easily. Nevertheless, I'm not at all sure that concentration is dissipated as such. In fact, I'm convinced that we're forced to concentrate hugely these days so as to cope with the way information is transmitted to us.

The key change is that intensely flavoured morsels are being delivered to our screens on a regular basis. Their digestion required brief bursts of deep concentration but also entails ever-briefer attention spans.

I was attracted to poetry in my childhood precisely because I have a short attention span and can only concentrate for limited periods, albeit with great focus. I always found myself distracted when attempting to read long novels. However, with verse I was able to pick up a collection, open it at a page and gulp a poem down in five minutes - one of those intensely flavoured morsels that I discussed in the previous paragraph. Nowadays, teenagers could subsitute a screen for a page along similar lines.

In other words, my own argument is that the digital age could well actually lend itself to greater enjoyment of poetry ahead of novels, rather than having the opposite effect. All we've got to do is write verse that people want to read...!

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