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How Poetry Works


Poetry in the 20th Century and Today

By the beginning of the 20th century, poetry had come a long way. Some poets loved using prescribed structures and forms, while others rejected these ideas completely and tried to do their own thing.

The early 20th century saw a lot of push against formal structure and style. The modernist movement of the early 1900s was in a way fighting back against the idea that poetry should be elegant and beautiful. Poems became shorter and more concise -- a much simpler, less ornate style was preferred. Some famous modernist poets include W.B. Yeats, Robert Frost and W.H. Auden.

After about 1945, the postmodern movement brought more abstract and experimental styles to poetry. Text could be fragmented and sometimes very obscure. From the postmodern movement came the beat poets, such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, who rebelled against mainstream society in their themes and styles. From the beat movement emerged a style known as spoken word, which is a type of poetry that is both performed and makes some kind of a statement (typically something political).

Today, you can find poets and poetry of all sorts. While poetry may not be as much a part of the mainstream as it had been in previous generations, it's certainly not a lost art form if you know where to look. Many bars, cafés and schools still host poetry readings where experienced or novice poets can share their work with others.

One great way to hear modern poets today is to attend a poetry slam, which is a competition where poets battle against one another and are judged on their poem performances. Some poetry slams use an elimination system and a series of elimination rounds through which poets must progress.

Some people also look at music as a form of poetry. Musicians like Bob Dylan are well known for the poetic qualities of the lyrics they write. Rap music also is known to follow many of the structures, meters and rhyme schemes that are associated with poetry.

For more information about types of poetry, the history of poetry and the influence of poetry today, peruse the links on the next page.