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Poetry Is Not Dead. And I Care.

By Kassie J Runyan

When I was in my early 20's I saw an article titled “Poetry Is Dead. Does Anybody Really Care?” It stuck with me. Writing for a paycheck seemed like an unattainable dream. I was someone who had only just written a handful of chapters of a book I never thought I would finish and a small stack of song lyrics; and I never thought much about if poetry really was or was not “dead” until that precise moment. But that made me think… who was the last living poet that I could name? Was I aware of a poet who could make a livable wage? The easy answer to both questions was “nope!” Then I pushed the thought aside and continued with life.

Until years later. My first novel was in the first of many rounds of editorial and I typically had a journal with me at all times, for the random idea.

I was sitting on a boat. In the middle of a storm. Trying to find a way to calm my mind. I couldn't think of a single damn lyric to any song in the world. But I though in color and stories, pasted together into a poem that I didn’t even think was a poem at the time. The boat rocked and swayed, and I crafted word after word – a shorthand of true life as I felt as small as a girl on a toy boat in a bath. As soon as we made it to shore (and I warmed up with a pint and a stew) I wrote those words into a travel notebook that my parents had gifted me some earlier year. My husband read it and declared it a wonderful poem. My thoughts drifted to the upscale poetry magazines and poets of old and thought – this doesn’t rhyme or even is a set stanza… is it a poem or just a handful of thoughts broken up on how I want them read? I paged through the notebook in front of me and realized that I had been jotting ‘poems’ into the pages for longer than I had even realized. And a thought formed. Maybe poetry had never died… maybe it just kept evolving and poets became everyone who wanted to share their words in verse or prose or story.

Move forward another handful of years and the start of the pandemic, I knew I wanted to start pulling my poetry out of notebooks and scraps of paper and into a collection. And then I got serious and wrote an additional collection specifically for this year. Around that time, I realized I didn’t know where to share it. There were magazines and competitions, but they were pricey and rare to win without connections. In person readings weren’t happening and don’t even think about an in-person signing. So, I searched “poetry” on Facebook and found groups of people. People from all walks of life, education, and stages in their writing or poetry cycle. They were there by the hundreds. Each voice defined by the dreams and hopes, the loss and fear, the struggle and joys of each writer's unique life. They were beautiful. The writers, the authors, the poets, and the words – spoken and written. And there was that title from 15+ years ago as the words drifted back to me “Poetry Is Dead. Does Anybody Really Care?” I then looked around at my newfound community; full of self and peer proclaimed poets, as they bared their souls through their rhymes and prose, and with a resounding certainty I thought, “Poetry is not dead, and I care.”

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