Poetry is a dying art. Perhaps art as a whole is dying because we are living in a fragmented world where no one seems to want to devote the time to improving their hand at the discipline. Like all disciplines, art requires focus, drive, and vision. When no one bothers to emphasize the importance or the beauty of art, then it withers. Our single-minded focus on banal entertainment in all of its thousands of varieties have made us slothful and uninformed. Our aspirations have shifted from noble to narcissistic and we are all the worse for it.
Last night I participated in a poetry reading here in town, which might as well have been named Amateur Hour. There were hints of promise in some of these poems, but they seemed to believe that the act of jocular performance itself was more important than the delivery or, god forbid, the words behind them. Most badly called for restraint and revision. Moreover, their uniform mediocrity showed them to be completely beholden to a mind-numbingly small number of influences rendering them in bad imitation of already poor art. In the process, original voice was often nowhere to be found. Good art absorbs influences from everywhere, because only then does one truly see the immense potential of what can be achieved. Good art speaks for itself and begs the question rather than provides an simple answer.
This could be a reflection of a larger problem. In this country we have long been reluctant to subsidize and fund the arts. I recall the controversial measures pushed by the GOP in the 1990's that, if passed, would have entirely cut off funding for the National Humanities for the Arts. In comparison, other countries, by contrast, have gladly footed the bill---knowing that the building blocks of progress and civilization cannot be measured purely in terms of profit, loss, gain, and expenditure. Many people seem to think that cultural advancement really means that every town should have a Target shopping center. Many people have never been told why art matters, both on a conscious and a psychic level---and they were certainly never taught in school to understand why abstract concepts are of such vital importance to everyone.
I'm not sure whether art is completely dying out or merely evolving into another form. What I must say, however, is that I'm not sure I like the new direction it's heading.