R.M. Engelhardt

The Half-Dead Poet Review: Let Poetry Just Be Poetry

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So every morning for the last two years it’s been exactly the same every single day. I get my coffee and read the news. And the poetry news and social media keep repeating and massively over repeating the same old schtick and mantas. Attention-getting devices for example such as “Younger Poets Create A Poetry Renaissance” or ” Poetry Makes A Comeback Thanks To New Poets or Diverse Poets”. Perhaps on some websites, the headline gives Instagram all the credit or cites a few particular Instagram poets who are riding the current fad and sudden wave of popularity but either way? The writer’s of these articles clearly haven’t really done any real research and are merely using these types of headlines as hooks to bring people to their online news journals to read whatever story they’ve invented or written. But what these journalists are missing (or completely ignoring) is that before these younger poets were even born there were other poets, now older who opened the doors for them and who created a world where they could write freely express themselves and post or perform their poems. And those older, now unrecognized poets are also still writing amazing poetry and are not being given any due credit or any articles at all celebrating their work or contributions to poetry’s supposed rediscovery or recent comeback. The important truths & stories that are not being written and should mention the fact that poetry has always mattered and that will never change. Poetry never died or left the building. Also in this era of pop culture popularity & new found poet celebrity thanks and notoriety should be given to all those poets of the past and even the dead poets of the past (no matter what ethnicity) who originally created and blazed this current wave/trail and who were the ones who made it possible for these new and younger poets to make their voices heard. But does social media really care about them? No. They are creating a false interpretation of the truth and are now focusing, turning younger poets and writers into the next Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga. And that’s definitely not poetry or what poetry is about. Why? Because poetry isn’t the music industry and it’s not just a slam. It’s not just about performance or talking about women’s rights, political protest or racism. Poetry is about everything no matter what race or color you are or what country you come from. And poetry should be far more meaningful and sacred than a mere pop culture reference. We live in a time when real art and real poetry should be celebrated and recognized and yet it’s integrity is being washed over by a media who only see mass attention and money signs. Some journalists I’m convinced believe that they are truly recognizing poetry in America but as I previously mentioned haven’t even begun to research where it’s real legacy comes from. Andy Warhol’s quote about 15 minutes of fame comes to mind but poetry should be far more than just that. Poetry isn’t a commercial enterprise. It’s the words and voices of generations. Human beings. It should be the sound of humanity at it’s worst, and at it’s best. And social and mass media has missed the big picture and as usual, the point and it’s all very sad to see every day. Unfortunately, I doubt that this will all change and the media doesn’t really care about this subject enough to actually recognize what they are falsely reporting as long as their articles get attention. Much like models & celebrity reporting, they are focusing on the ” Youth” factor rather than the actual work of the writer based on their merits. Poetry isn’t the latest music sensation. It’s writing. And I’m guessing that the majority of people who’ve written these stories has ever been to a poetry open mic let alone ever picked up and read a poetry journal or a zine. In a way, this is a form of age discrimination because they are only concerned with the sell point and audience rather than the thing that matters.

The poetry itself and the poem itself.

“Screw the false notion of “politically correct”. No matter what race, nationality, creed or color you are. If you are a real writer then you are writing in the real world. Write about it and stand up for yourself as well as other writers.”

R.M. Engelhardt, Goodreads
R.M. Engelhardt

So all this now brings me to talk about another insipid social media phenomenon that seems to be polluting the world of poetry today. The false use and misuse of the term ” politically correct” as applied to the recent poem of a young white poet in the magazine called The Nation regarding the plight of homelessness. You may have read about this whole controversy which isn’t so much a controversy as a ridiculous farce screaming for attention created by a number of people looking for exactly that … Attention. So I’m going to give them some more attention and share my opinion on the matter whether anyone agrees with me or not. And quite frankly I hope it offends them and pisses them off because I don’t like people or drama queens who use these false tactics just to draw attention to themselves or who crave the power to control or censor other people. I recently advocated for this poet, Anders Carlson-Wee on Facebook in a discussion on a poetry group page against an academic poet who kept ranting about how The Nation should have never published this poem and that they were right to apologize for Attention-getting publication. The academic kept talking on & on about the poem’s style and not about the main issue at hand which he kept side stepping in the conversation. He also kept over using the rhetoric and terms ” Blackface” “Racist” & “Politically Correct” every time I made a point about writer’s rights and free speech in America. I had to inform him several times that the subject was not about the critiquing of the poem and that it’s not racist in the narrative. The core of the issue was the misjudgment of the poem itself. Freedom of speech means being free as an individual to write and to say what they wish. What was biased in this case was the over criticism of some guy’s work who meant well. There seems to be a fear and a lack of advocating for all writers no matter what race, nationality, ethnicity or religion because everyone is afraid of the backlash. But who’s next on their attack list? I understood a while back when a poet misrepresented himself and pretended to be an Asian poet. That’s seriously wrong and worth addressing. But so is not defending a writer when he only used a narrative voice like all writers do in their work every single day. A white man using the character voice of a black African American homeless man isn’t racism. It’s narrative. It’s writing. And that’s what writers do. If you’re a writer or a poet writing in the real world and 21st century you shouldn’t, or falsely judged for being honest or authentic about a subject. To thine own self be true. It’s your right. , wasn’t racism but overkill & over sensitivity under the guise of some agenda. Much like our President Donald Trump who also frequently uses the term ” politically correct” these days to meet his own designs. I agree with the writer and former editor of The Nation Grace Schulman. The magazine should have stood up and defended this poet instead of apologizing for his poem. And the poet Anders Carlson-Wee should have stood up for himself as well instead of caving in to a bunch of over sensitive and over controlling critics.

It’s become apparent that we now live in a time when whether we go right or left that we as a people and a country need to be on guard as to what matters and what is true. It’s time to take a good look at ourselves and our culture and to protect our poets, writers and artists from the false shadows of those who would take away our individual rights as human beings and our freedom of expression and freedom of speech under the impression of what is supposedly “correct or incorrect” in the 21st century America. It’s time we open the window and see the real world for exactly what it is. At times horrible and vicious, poor, rich and arrogant. If people keep trying to mask or cover up that world they are only fooling themselves. In the real world, you can’t be a writer or poet if you don’t defend the rights of other writers no matter who they are or their background. If you throw them under the bus you are throwing away your own rights as well. So let poetry be poetry and let poetry live.

Let Poetry Be Poetry


Don’t apologize
Don’t cry
Don’t whine

Leave it alone
Don’t change or
Edit the world
Be honest
Be authentic
Be real

You’re entitled
No matter
Who you are
Or where you

To be who you
Were meant to be
To say what needs
To be said to be
Free and to let the
Words breathe

Like all words
And poetry should

And not to be stifled
By others who
Aren’t brave enough
To say what needs
To be said
Afraid to be alive
Because they all live

In the imaginary

Of fear

Of political
Who live in
The dark or
Who believe
That they have
The right to control
Your voice

Your thoughts
Your writing
Your ideas

Your history
Your color
Your beliefs

Don’t apologize
Don’t cry
Don’t whine

Leave the words
As they are
Let the words be
Your own words
And never ever
Back down

Against Nazis
Against censorship
Against idiots
Against tyrants

Who think that
They have the right
To edit your soul

Because on the day
You are afraid
To write a poem
In America
Or anywhere

You’ve already
Let all the monsters



Let Poetry
Be Poetry

Let The Poem Breathe

Let The Poem Live

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