Sappho, Edwin Austin Abbey,
hat went wrong? Somehow, we blew it. We never quite got poetry inside the American school system, and thus, never quite inside the culture. Many brave people have tried, tried for decades, are surely still trying.
Let us blame instead the stuffed shirts who took an hour to explain [a] poem in their classrooms, who chose it because it would need an explainer; pretentious ponderous ponderosas of professional professors will always be drawn to poems that require a priest.
Still, we have failed. The fierce life force of contemporary American poetry never made it through the metal detector of the public-school system.
....But largely, c’mon — you and I both know — real live American poetry is absent from our public schools....This is more than a shame, for poetry is our common treasure-house, and we need its aliveness, its respect for the subconscious, its willingness to entertain ambiguity; we need its plaintive truth-telling about the human condition and its imaginative exhibitions of linguistic freedom, which confront the general culture’s more grotesque manipulations.
....If anthologies were structured to represent the way that most of us actually learn, they would begin in the present and “progress” into the past....The second part of the fix is rather more complicated: in addition to rebooting the American poetic canon as a whole, we must establish a kind of national core curriculum, a set of poems held in common by our students and so by our citizens. In the spirit of boosterism, I have selected twenty works I believe worthy of inclusion...Read all of the Suggestions for and commentary on Twenty Little Poems That Could Save America, by Tony Hoagland | Harper's Magazine