I know that I’m a Philistine, but very few poems could not be improved by making them rhyme and setting them to one of Dr. Dre’s beats.
Exceptions are the few great poems/poets of all time: Ozymandias, Howl, Gravy (Carver), some Eugene Field, The Ancient Mariner, epic poems like the Iliad, Jami, Kubla Khan, The Raven, Kipling, Bukowski, some Robert Frost, and a handful of others that will be pointed out to me, I’m sure. Not being on this list doesn’t mean your poetry/poem sucks. But there’s a better than average chance that it does..
Poets are mad because, for 5000 years, they got all the girls and the fame and got to work for about fifteen minutes a day and drink wine. While the Beats were on top, they expressed admiration for jazz musicians; when the Beats grew old, the musicians took over. Now desperate poets even bring bongo drums to readings, when what they should be doing is learning how to use a drum machine.
Rappers are the new poets. Wait a minute! All rap is about bling and guns and drug dealing etc. That’s not art! How can it compare?
First, let’s not be hypocritical. A lot of poetry is about flowers and shadowy souls and angst. Or about how you were oppressed. But the difference is there are still numerous good rap songs about the gangsta life, while I challenge you to show me some good emo poetry.
Second, rap is a new art form. After 5000 years, there are maybe a hundred or so great poems. That’s one every fifty years. Whereas my mp3 player is full of great rap songs from the last 25. I don’t see this trend reversing itself.
Third, rap will some day diversify, just like how all rock music is not about surfing anymore. And I’m not talking about “positive rap.” Ugh.
Fourth, don’t use the example of Southern rappers. They don’t rhyme and seem like “In Living Color” caricatures. I’ll admit that great poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, but all rap does. As a matter of fact, don’t point out sh*tty rap songs or trite lyrics to prove me wrong. Because I guarantee I can find 10 crap published poems for every song you show me. Pick up any literary magazine, if you can find one. And chances are, the guy that wrote the crappy song about wheel rims at least has diamond encrusted teeth and a couple of hot backup dancers to show for it. (Note: This is a joke. Having diamond teeth or booty dancers does not indicate artistic talent. But they make its lack much easier to bear.)
Fifth, Rap is a more complex art form. The songs need good beats and rhythmic, powerful delivery. No one can just write lyrics on a piece of paper and call it a day.
The novel lives on and has not been totally eclipsed by its technological rival, the movie. Now I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of blockheads these days who don’t read anything and only watch movies. But you can still make a living as a novelist. Sure, it’s unlikely, but so is Hollywood success. And it is impossible to make a living as a poet anymore without teaching (teaching what – other people how to write poetry no one will pay to read?). The novel still has its advantages. An author, cannot, by himself, in one year, for free, create a movie that precisely expresses his artistic vision. If he could, the novel would die too.