April 2012

Epic Poetry

And the epic hero


Epic poetry is probably one of the most ancient genres in existence if not the single most ancient genre, but nobody really composes epics any more. It would be tough to write an epic poem in the modern world without a sense of irony (which would almost certainly ruin the epic) because we've become very skeptical toward heroes. This in itself is kind of odd, because we also expect a lot more of our heroes than our ancient ancestors did. They only expected their heroes to be fantastically competent and fantastically brave. We expect ours to also be perfectly moral, which is beyond their reach. If we find out one of our heroes has a moral failing, we rip him to pieces for it.

The Poetry of Tolkien

Widely read, but underappreciated


JRR Tolkien's “Lord of the Rings” is filled with poetry of his own composition. While this poetry is not really a significant contribution to the Western poetic canon in the same way the novel is to the genre of fantasy literature, it is probably more widely-read than just about all of the famous poetry of the twentieth century just by virtue of being part of such a popular novel.

Adrienne Rich



I am only passingly familiar with the poetry of Adrienne Rich, as most of the poetry I read these days is either old or translated from some other language or both. I am, to put it mildly, not in sympathy with most modern English-language poetry.


However, what I have read of her work did seem to have something, and she occupied a very rare place in American culture- that of the influential poet. Not influential to the average American, of course, that would be asking too much under current circumstances. But among the minority of people in this country who care about things such as poetry at all, Adrienne Rich was an important figure. Her words carried weight.

Challenge Yourself This NaPoMo

Sure, you could just write a poem every day. Or you could…

It’s National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate, read, and write poetry. It is time to bring out that old beret and put it to good use while you pretend to be Rossetti or Poe for an entire month.

While writing a poem every single day is an ambitious project—not to mention fun—there are a few ways you can make this challenge even bigger and bolder. Here are just a few ideas…

Enter a poetry contest every day. This is the one that I’ve chosen to do this year. While the contests at AllPoetry are not paying, they do award you cute little Internet trophies you can display—as well as points you can use on the site to host your own contest or give to other poets. You could also submit to local and national contests, those that pay money to winners, etc., but many of these also cost money to participate in. I like AllPoetry because you are playing with and judging your peers, and it’s all in good fun. Plus, it’s free!