Of course, in peremptorily dismissing poetry as difficult (or elitist), we should not confuse difficulty with incompetence or inadequacy on the part of the poet.

But that requires long hours. This is easy enough to admit: “There is no end to what we can learn.” (Mark Strand) No comfort, though. To qualify, we are obligated to protracted study and review, unwavering attention. Intro to Poetry or a semester or two of light, hasty indulgence won’t do. Neither will stale, timid evaluations circulating in workshops. Only lifelong commitment, rejuvenation: “A great poem is no finish to a man or woman but rather a beginning.” (Walt Whitman)

“If poetry reaches the point which chess has reached, where the decisive, profound, and elegant combinations lie within the scope only of masters, and are appreciable only to competent and trained players, that will seem to many people a sorry state of affairs, and to some people a consequence simply of the sinfulness of poets; but it will not in the least mean that poetry is, as they say, dead; rather the reverse. It is when poetry becomes altogether too easy, too accessible, runs down to a few derivative formulae and caters to low tastes and lazy minds—it is then that the life of the art is in danger.” (Howard Nemerov)

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