Graphic depictions of violence snake through virtually every form of American entertainment and art, from classic cartoon violence of The Simpsons, to movie violence of Tarantino, and graphic depictions of violence in horror by Ellis, Caine and other writers. Even highly acclaimed episodic shows such as The Sopranos and Game of Thrones thrive on routine depictions of beatings, murders, and rape.
By contrast, you'd be hard-pressed to find a single graphic depiction of violence in any celebrated American poem. Even Poe at his darkest, or Bukowski on his most misanthropic whiskey binge, never touch upon the kind of larger-than-life depictions of violence that otherwise groove the pulse of our cultural machine from stealth bombers to genuine life serial killers.
As far as I can see, this widely accepted artistic aesthetic is missing from American poetry.
Don't get me wrong -- there's a lot of it being written and even posted or published in zines, but it's almost all angsty teenager stuff even if isn't being written by literal teenagers (which is mostly is.)
Tupac gets talked about as a violent poet. I agree. Some of his words deal directly with violent subjects and issues, but still no projectile vomiting or slow-motion beheadings. You won't find a crash-test dummy segment like Tarantino painstakingly assembles in Death Proof. And you certainly won't find Bones and All.
Playing spoiler here: I personally think this is a good thing. I'm all for drawing a discernable line between spectacle and art.
On the other hand, intentionally or not, our society is doing everything to erase that line. We celebrate the spectacle of human torture and suffering in film, but unlike the Romans who remained aware of the online between spectacle and art, we embrace violence as art.
But not, seemingly, in poetry.
How do you feel about this?
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