There are two ways of viewing history.
One is the progressive, linear view, which assumes anything today is better than anything in the past.
The other sees history going in waves or cycles—matching the rhythmns of nature and the universe.
If everything today is better, than why has literature regressed from past peaks?
I thought this as I was memorizing a poem today. My fiancee’s mother is impressed when I recite poetry. Hey, whatever works. I decided to recite some Dylan Thomas:
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day,
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.”
Note the euphony—age, rage, day—which adds to the emotion of the piece.
Here’s the question: Why were poets of the 1950’s so much better than those today? Why has the art deteriorated? I can think of two other poems off the top of my head from that era which could easily be classified as masterpieces: “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” by Kenneth Rexroth, and “Daddy,” (too obvious) by Sylvia Plath. Incidentally, Plath more than lives up to her giant reputation, once you read her poetry—or more, hear her voice reading it!
But, the question is out there. What happened to poetry?