Festival Internacional de Poesía de Medellín

How Poetry Can Act in the Era of Globalization
Or: The Difference Between Verse and a status update

By Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta
Written to Prometeo


The question is: can poetry can survive in a globalized world where it may seem as superfluous and anachronistic as a love letter in the age of sms, or distance in the age of Skype?

Technology as a side effect of globalization has attained such social effects that billions of people can now assert their individualities simultaneously and be confident that someone out there is listening.

Poetry can hardly keep up. It cannot stop climate change or give women driving rights. Poetry can’t even sell itself. It isn’t a viable commodity the way our ways of relating are viable commodities. It cannot be heard above the global noise of status updates, tweets, uploaded images, public photographs, uploaded music—everything in the cloud. Someone has described status updates as “easily consumable micro-content.” No one has said the same of poetry or books in general.  It is a commodity no one wants to consume. What does one need to read a book for, if for the same number of characters as a 200-page novel, one can read 625 status updates all in the name of “connecting,” and wanting to make our world “smaller.” Why connect with Dostoevsky if I can “like” my way into other people’s lives and they can “like” their way into mine? Having argued my way out of the need for poetry, it should still be said that no status update or television newsfeed has connected with me as surely as a single image delivered by a poem, which is open to as many interpretations, and has the power to attain as many meanings, as there are people who will read it. How an individual chooses to approach a poem, a story or a novel tells him more about himself than the minutiae he chooses to write about in 160 words or less.

In the age of globalization, it is easy to mistake the globalized self for the truly individual self. Poetry returns you to your individual self.

What’s the difference between verse and a status update? More people will read your status update. But to me, status is fleeting, as surely as nations and economies are fleeting. The world itself is fleeting. Poetry is not.

Up dated on March 8th, 2012.

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