This post originally appeared on this site on April 9, 2008, when Poets.net was still very young. I believe this question is worthy of another look.
As Bugzita on Foetry (Reply #34, November 28, 2006), I posted the following:
Quite frankly, most poetry published today would not pass "The Uncle Lyle Test." My Uncle Lyle is an ordinary Joe who likes to read, which I did not know until he read my first book (which sort of passed the test, but not entirely--oh, well).
Say what you will about bestsellers, but they are bestsellers because they pass the test imposed by the Uncle Lyles of the reading world. Now if your work is so rarified that it leaves most readers scratching their heads, that's fine, and there's something to be said for creating work that excludes all but a few insiders--academia does it all the time. That's a choice, and I respect that.
But I have a problem when these rarified poets start whining and moaning because no one wants read or buy their books. So some of them resort to dishonest methods to drum up bogus awards, which, from what I can see, are based less on quality of work and more on how well-connected they are. So everyone sets up a "press," and poets publish each other's poetry, no matter the quality: "Wink, Wink." To those not in the know, it all looks very respectable.
The problem is: the published work itself becomes insular and not all that interesting to the average reader. And because most readers are average in terms of intellect and tastes, the rarified poets' books sell, perhaps, one or two hundred copies, sold to other poets. Of course there are always exceptions, but, unfortunately, this insularity seems to be the norm.
And you wonder why poetry no longer matters? :?:
So, then, in 2008 (2011), as Jennifer, I pose the following questions for your consideration and opinion:
In 2111, what 2011 poets will be considered as literary representatives of our era, their works published in The Norton Anthology (2111 edition) and assigned by our academic descendants to school children and college students? If you wish, support your supposition with details.
Conversely, what 2011 poets will slide into obscurity? If you wish, support your supposition with details.
Related thread: "Is Poetry Dead?"