Poetry has, like most other things, evolved with time - but what distinguishes contemporary poetry from that of the past, and has an age of the internet eroded poetry’s meaning? What defines a poem?


Contemporary poetry is obviously different to that of Shakespeare - we as a species have learnt more colloquial ways of poetic expression, not as keen to break into sonnets now and again. However, one area which provokes most interest is the increased use of macabre imagery as a presentation of desire. Macabre imagery refers to the grotesque; the taboo, the unmentionable parts of the psyche and realism we prefer to bury as a way of saving face to one another. So why have contemporary poets clung to this extended metaphor? 


When reviewing the works of Emily Dickinson, famous queer poet, we can surmise she favoured the melancholic. Dickinson used realism within her imagery, compounding her experience into quatrains or triceps each more often than not including an internal rhyme. Her metaphors consist of nature and its path - how the seasons change, how the flora and fauna mirror her internal battles, and how she sees her lover in the clouds and in the sun. However, contemporary poets have made use of something darker as an analogy. 


In many contemporary poems, especially those by queer poets, there is an overwhelming use of themes of cannibalism and violence, opposed with desire to create compelling poems. A writer who exemplifies this is Richard Siken, American modernist poet, author of the anthology ‘Crush’. A phrase from one of Sikens’ most praised works, ‘Little Beast’ states ‘-we can’t punch ourselves awake and all I can do is stand on the curb and say Sorry about the blood in your mouth, I wish it was mine. I couldn’t get the boy to kill me.’ This is a long way from the distant melancholia of Dickinson and an even longer way from a Shakespearean villanelle. 


This type of imagery and description has become a trend in the poetry world, an avalanche of violent, semi-masochistic poems by internet-fiend poets sweeping the media. This type of poetry is a product of its environment - it's easier to write a metaphor than conduct iambic pentameter, and more accessible to understand too. Although this shouldn’t mean an end to meticulously structured poems. 


Poems in the contemporary age have become shorter, less planned and require less skill than previous generations. Anyone can take a crack at it! Can we still call it a craft when it requires little training? Who decides if poetry is good or bad? Whatever you may think, I deeply encourage you to think of poetry as more than just words - a poem is a construction: a building, an image, a sound and this should not be ignored.