I guess I’ve always been aware of that nuance, but I chose to ignore it in the dreamy light of postmodern aesthetics and its baroque aftertastes. It’s worthwhile to wonder if rhymelessness is even a problem. After all, free verse is the child of progression. Lose the shackles of stanza, the claustrophobia of meter, and the unholy reductionism of iambic nonsense; and behold a poetic jewel of a boundless, voidless voice. At least that’s the theory meandering about recently.
And people wonder why I’m a pessimist.
My bloodiest, darkest wars of introspection usually take place behind the cloudburst drear of a windowpane, which is exactly where I found myself when I deconstructed this argument. One slant of light tells me these inclinations are innovative and liberating - the artistic status of the ever-evolving present. The other, however, sheds a polar perspective: that maybe, in our obsessive disgust toward cliches, staples, tradition and rudimentary concepts, we’ve allowed ourselves to be consumed by arrogance. Maybe you don’t find poetry that rhymes anymore because all those literary pundits don’t think it’s fancy enough - that it’s basic. Perhaps the world of art has been overrun by milksops who desperately cling to their own sense of esoteric self-validation.
And it’s not just poetry.
Has anyone ever wondered why so many of these Oscar-winning Best Pictures like Birdman revolve around psychological dramatics, extreme realism, depression, drugs, alcohol, and social commentaries spiced with your occasional existential dissertation? Why Harry Potter has never won a Pulitzer Prize, but an array of obscure novels addressing race, sexuality, and other touchy-feely subjects have? Besides a few exceptions (like the exotic Return of the King victory) it seems that art critics have an intrinsic bias toward onerous stories rooted in melancholy; perhaps they assume this is ‘true art,’ and all that fantasy mumbo-jumbo is simply brain-eating, unrefined sewerage. And you know what? It works. No matter my skepticism, the hype has managed to swallow my favor in the past. If Birdman hadn’t won Best Picture I wouldn’t have thought it was a stroke of cinematic genius. If Shakespeare wasn’t paraded around our classrooms like the crystalline pinnacle of literary prodigy I might not have believed the man was such a demigod. (Come on, Romeo & Juliet was pretty ridiculous; four days to fall in star-crossed love?) It begs the deliberation of who exactly is the truly pretentious party: the critics; or the critics of the critics, like me. That’s one scary thought I’d rather not know the answer to.
In any case, the ultimate outcome rings with identical futility. It doesn’t matter that Harry Potter didn’t win a Pulitzer, because millions of infatuated readers have still hallowed the series to an esteem seldom matched (save for Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time… you know the drill). Likewise, Star Wars’ bitter lack of an Oscar doesn’t unhinge its blood-and-marrow intrinsicality to New Hollywood, modern cinema, the fantasy genre, and American culture as whole. Sure, there may be legitimate argument between the importance of the two factions: the authorities and the masses; but at the end of the day, only the latter can sanctify a work of art into an everlasting legacy. That’s where the debate normally ends inside my head.
My rant is now officially concluded. My apologies if I agitated anybody, but then again that’s kind of what art is about. I just hope that in today’s angsty quagmire of slick dialogue, Earthbound thematics, depressing illustrations and critics of overwhelming insecurity, people will still unleash the impetus to create what they feel - what they believe matters. It doesn’t matter how rhyme-filled, however lacking in sophisticated vagueness, how crude or however otherworldly; art is art, and at its most visceral there will always be a curious crowd prepared to listen. We already have voices, after all.
All that remains is the courage to speak.