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Opinion: Vulgarity in Contemporary Poetry Devalues Itself


There is a rising notion with college students who consider themselves poets. First off, in many respects, poetry cannot be defined to a single, structured definition. For centuries, poetry has changed, and writers of every decade dating back to the beginning of poetry have continually redefined what poetry can be. Without delving into thousands of examples, a simple statement to make aware is that poetry has always been a way for individuals to release what cannot be said vocally; whether it be of something involving their inner conscience or merely a thought or idea deemed too provocative by the writer to state in person. Of course, these are only two examples. Poetry can be exemplified into something beautifully complicated or simple and straightforward as a means of imaging the everyday instances we experience or see.

With some of these ideas in mind, an increasing trend with poetry in today’s time is the use of vulgar, blatant words and terminology; words that cannot even be exampled in this article. First off, let it be known that using a “curse word” or specific term in a poem can serve a genuine purpose. This is not an objection to that, but rather the forceful use of unnecessary obscenity.

Of course, I am not the one to judge a person’s use of words. I am not here to call out or spotlight any particular poets or their poetry. However, what I have noticed from various readings on the Roanoke College campus and a recent event I attended at Virginia Tech is that college students, whether it be Creative Writing majors or general poets who enjoy it as a hobby (or both, of course), is that the topic of sex, expressed bluntly and sometimes even unfruitful, along with the throwing-in of curse words replacing most of the adjectives, is surprising to me.

Though I do not wish to sound arrogant, I have been blessed with twelve publications early in my writing career, none of them being self-published. My works of poetry and short fiction span from Dark Matter Journal from The University of Houston – Downtown, The Rusty Nail from Sweatshoppe Publications, The East Jasmine Review, Haiku Journal from Prolific Press, 50 Haikus, and the anthology Voices From Smith Mountain. A universal factor in all of these journals is that the use of purposeful impudence as the primary method for having the work is highly discouraged. Often, the use is referred to as “teenage angst” or even an ineptness of creativity.

Now, this isn’t to say there aren’t publishers who accept this style of edgy writing, and there are writers who can combine the use of blunt, coarse words into something quite interesting or even genre-bending. However, the concern I have is this style of writing becoming the modern standard or normality; the permanent removal of intriguing, thought-provoking writing with simple, ribald terminology anyone unfamiliar with poetry can understand without any insight required. Where’s the aesthetic poetry in that?