The Division of Kashmir Through Political Voices

fists raised in protest
Illustration by Saad Hasib

Kashmir for many used to be a piece of heaven on Earth, but now it’s one of the most volatile and militarised zones on Earth. How did this happen? And most importantly how are it’s inhabitants coping with it?

After the partition of 1947, Kashmir has been violently contested by both India and Pakistan. Because Kashmir, a princely state, had a Muslim majority but a Hindu King, there was a conundrum as to whether it should cede to Muslim majority Pakistan or secular India. During this period of ambivalence, Pakistani militia groups attacked Kashmir which forced the King Hari Singh, to ask India for help and thus cede to India. Following this, several Indo-Pak wars have been fought and treaties signed.

The latest development was the repeal of Article 370 and 35A by the Indian Government, without any deliberation with the Kashmiri representatives, that gave semi autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Anticipating violent backlash from Kashmir and Pakistan, India stationed thousands of military personnel in Kashmir and enacted the longest communication and digital lockdown in the history of civilised democracies. Thus essentially isolating Kashmir from the rest of the world indefinitely.
In January of 2020, Internet and communication access was allowed again due to the international backlash against such unconstitutional sieges.

It was during these uncertain times, that the people of Kashmir suffered the most and started their new journey to protest to the greatest of lengths too.

Politics and literature have become inseparable in ordinary Kashmiris’ lives. With many Kashmiri politicians still under house arrest, political sympathy for Independent Kashmir has gone underground. Very few, if any at all, politicians in Kashmir speak against the atrocious situation created by the Indian Government. However, this hasn’t stopped Kashmiri public and artists from speaking up.

Kashmiri artists are continually searching for and using varied methods of art to convey their plight. The plight of Kashmir. Like in politics, in arts too the Indian Government has cracked down on artists. On accounts of ‘sowing discord’ and ‘terrorism’, many artists have been banned and are under surveillance.

‘In the last 30 years, I have never seen this kind of suppression’, says Madhosh Balhami, who had his house and countless poetry books burned down in 2018 by a scuffle between the Indian military and terrorists.
He says that he mainly remains underground along with many other writers and poets who fear to be jailed under anti-terrorism laws for their resistance literary works.

Zareef, pen name, recalls ‘In terms of political or social commentary through art, the Kashmiri tradition of Bhand Pather, or folk theatre and art performed on the streets, has showcased satirical art as dissent very well’. The communication lockdown by the government, however, doesn’t allow it anymore.

Still relentless efforts continue by fearless Kashmiri artists. One of them is Syed Areej Safvi who is on the quest to revive 150 year old art of Ladishah, which is a form of indigenous poetry storytelling, to highlight the voice of women. She critiques the government through satirical performances on YouTube, in an attempt to resist in her own ways.

Another such fearless poet is Rmuz, who is writing apology poems for future generations to come. To apologise for not stopping the abrogation of Article 370 with their last breath.

Kashmiris are not only protesting through poems and stories but also with visceral artwork that manages to pierces even the most silent ones. Inder Salim turns blood splattered pellets into eye-catching jewelleries for the onlookers to wear. He can’t find a market though, as arbitrary arrests are always a fear.

Most artwork and literary ventures from Kashmir get featured in International articles and stages, and not in Kashmir. An omnipresent fear of being banned and harassed forces them to go underground, like the famed MC Kash has, a revolutionary artist

Film industries outside of Kashmir continue to make conflicting movies on Kashmir, which often misrepresent or outright lie about the Kashmiri perspective. Films like ‘Kashmir Hamara Hain’ and ‘Dhara 370 and 35A’ were released after the princely status of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked. These movies did an astounding job to legitimise the Indian Government’s military crackdown and trying to paint India as ‘the good guy’. The political smell reeking from these movies gave a very explicit news to the audience: Kashmir belongs to India and this won’t change no matter what. Following the trail, several high profile Indian actors showed public support to the government while completely disregarding the inhumane conditions that were soon to ensue in Kashmir.

The message from Pakistan however, very predictably, was the exact opposite. Music videos such as ‘Ja Chor Day Meri Waadi’ and ‘Kashmir Qo Haqq Do Bharat’, produced by ISPR (Inter-Services Public Relations) of Pakistan, were very direct and vehement attacks on India which have garnered huge popularity among Kashmiris. Likewise, Pakistani artists and celebrities continue to offer support and sympathy for a free Kashmir in contrast to their neighbours.

These confrontations of these two Nuclear powers will continue. Be it in the media or in trade. It’s not their voice that matters but the Kashmiri voice that does matter, but often gets ignored in matters of its own concern.
‘Soz: A ballad of maladies’ by Tushar Madav and Sarvnik Kaur’ is a documentary on Kashmir conflict that takes historical context into account and talks about the Kashmiri Point of View, and isn’t engaged in the mud throwing war like Pakistani and Indian media.

Numerous books are being written by Kashmiri writers to restore tales of these uncertain times so that the next generations aren’t robbed of it by the ongoing intellectual and cultural erasure of Kashmir by the Modi Government. ‘Muunu: A boy in Kashmir’, by Malik Sajad and ‘Curfewed Night (2009)’ by Basharat Peer narrate the mind numbing trauma and cultural massacre that Kashmir suffers from and will probably continue to suffer from because of unending human greed.

Kashmir isn’t only suffering from this ongoing assault but also from the events of the not-so-long-ago past that continues to haunt Kashmir. The Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits of the 90s still continue to bleed the hearts of evergreen Kashmiri victims and literature. Siddhartha Gigoo’s ‘The Garden of Solitude’ (2010) still continues to remind Kashmir of the heart wrenching migration of Kashmir’s Hindus.

Nowadays, novels and artworks are being produced, even under traumatic and dangerous circumstances, on Kashmir by Kashmiris that talk about them and their predicament. Some write about the bloodshed and PTSD that Kashmir is a regular audience to, while outsiders ignore that to write about the enthralling Dal Lake that everyone wants a piece of. Alas, no one wants Kashmir and Kashmiris to have that piece.

Written by: Maliha Rahman

Rhyme or No Rhyme, That Is The Question

Rhyme or No Rhyme
Illustration by Saad Hasib

Now, what amount of poetic expertise
Would be ample enough – I do not know.
I know, some things are stirring in the distance –
A butterfly and a hundred such crows.
Listen to the wind, and listen closely,
The wind has a tale to tell.

Rhyme is considered as something very fundamental to poetry. The simplest way to ever describe a poem would be to call them words that rhyme. However, rhyme is not an immanent aspect of a poem. 

A huge number of people believe that the best kind of poetry is one that has some sort of rhyme. There’s no doubt that the ability to rhyme is a great talent. At the same time, not being able to rhyme is not a lacking of any kind.

With every age came a new type of poetry. There may exist a hierarchy in terms of succession, but that’s it. No one form of poetry is better than the other. 

In today’s age, the very definition of what is and isn’t poetry is not only changing but also expanding. After all, we are all poets now, we all write, we all feel. 

So, what would be the 2021 definition of poetry? Anything written from the heart that has a melody to it is poetry, or so I’d like to say.

Even though they call it a river
It’s actually a dream.

I once came across a person who said that poems have to rhyme. As they were very good at rhymes and I wasn’t, and as they felt superior to me for that very reason and I accepted it, I felt my inability to rhyme meant I could never be a good poet. 

I tried to rhyme but failed miserably. At one point, luckily so, I gave up on rhymes. I decided that I’ll write what I feel, and if it sounds good to me that will be enough. And just like that words flew out of my fingertips and started appearing on the screen in front of me.

In this city
It’s always quite quiet
You could hear the trains arriving 
Bringing lost souls to their homes
And taking aboard those who don’t have any yet.

Personally, I’m more of a fan of playing with words (not wordplay) than rhymes. I like twisting sentences, tearing down their simplicity, and bringing out something melodious. One can say that’s because I can’t rhyme. To be honest, I’m not a fan of structure altogether. That’s why I will never be writing a haiku or a sonnet. But free verse I’ll do. In fact, the popularity of free verse in today’s date is astounding. Maybe this “structure” is freeing, not restricting.

It was a sound,
Yes, it was a voluminous sound.
It came very quietly, very very quietly,
It came as the song built up itself,
It came as the words became lyrics,
It came as the lyrics filled up the brain,
It came as the brain slowly started to feel.

So, as a budding poet, should you concern yourself with rhymes? No. Not entirely.

Rhyme or no rhyme – there’s no answer to this question. In all honesty, this question doesn’t matter to me at all. And I’d like it to be the case for you too.

When I first learned about scansions, it really bothered me. Somebody dissected poems, things that existed before any rule was imposed upon them, and put forward endless rules without which, they declared, one can’t write poems. Something arbitrary was taken as a standard and now we have to live with it.

Whether it was my stupidity or my inherent reluctance, I couldn’t learn scansion. 

All of what I said so far can be taken as a postmodernist approach to poetry, or literature as a whole. Simply put, it’s about breaking down structure and rebuilding it anew, without being limited by standards and forms.

So far, I’ve only been talking against rhyme, but that doesn’t mean I’m against it. I’m only against the idea of considering only a particular style of poetry best, and the rest as something less.

One day
All that will remain of this
Is nothing. 

There are smokes on the road
In the houses on top of skyscrapers
In the eyes of those who are lost
And the worst of its kind is now soaring
From the heart of the great Amazon. 

Written by: Atanu Roy Chowdhury

Western Influence in Modern Poetry: Erasing Our Individuality?

Western influence in modern poetry
Western Influence in Poetry - Illustration by Joyita Faruk

The current world is a melting glass pot. Modern poetry is not exempt from its bubble-speckled grasp. Since the days of Romantic poets like Wordsworth, the English style of poetry has bled into other parts of the sphere. While that has been a good thing throughout the years, I dare to ask if we’re leaving behind more than we can gain. Is this barrage of western influence hampering our interest and practice of literature?

Common Themes in Western Modern Poetry

Modern poetry is an experiment with no control variables, twisting old conventions into new. These poems don’t rhyme – they challenge all forms of tradition. Words used in unfathomed contexts and line breaks in unexpected places are proof of this chaotic exploration.  

Contemporary poetry tends to be incredibly simplistic to coax the masses into trying poetry. It has its merits. But the capitalistic drive to gain traction has rendered poetry vulnerable to lazily spun Insta-poetry.

Where is The Space for Our Roots?

Rupi Kaur, one of the most condemned for using this simplistic approach, is an interesting case. To her credit, she has tried to incorporate her origins within English – letting go of capitalization and all punctuation but the period. It is the essence of the Gurmukhi script from Punjab.

Yet, where is the musicality of the Gurbanis? Where is the rhythmic rendition of Sufi poetry?

I’m not saying Rupi has to represent Punjab to the world. She was raised in Canada, so it’s certainly not her responsibility to be the face of an ethnicity. Moreover, I don’t know which specific Punjabi style of literature she had access to.

The point is that the incorporation seems a bit underwhelming when the rest of her technicality is lacking. Most of her work reeks strongly of pretty-sounding words strung together clumsily with not much meaning.

Finding Space For Ourselves Despite the Western Influence

The intermingling of literary styles can give birth to new beauty and revitalize the old. The Japanese tanka and haiku forms are brilliant examples of this. In the beginning, they could not connect the human experience. It was largely because Japanese writers at that time were reluctant to depart from their traditional literary language.

When the first translations of English poetry began to circulate within Japanese poetry circles, the merit of using modern tongue and varied structures in poems became clear. With tanka specifically, the western approach of leaving the meaning of symbolism up to the reader’s interpretation came in perfect accordance.

Due to their ambiguous natures, Japanese poems and Symbolists found their common ground in conveying the poet’s mood. As such, despite being a traditional form in its early life, the tanka found new roots in poets such as Yosano Akiko, Ishikawa Takuboku, and late 19th-century poet Masaoka Shiki. Today, it’s one of the most well-known structures originating from Japan, next to the haiku.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Thanks to Japanese literature, we can see that there’s a good way to go about this. We can still reinforce our roots despite western modernity taking up our own space.

If we think of Bangladesh, our roots contain rebellion and liberalism. Think of Nazrul, the Rebel Poet. Think of our songs of spirituality and higher love, metaphors with double and triple meanings.

My thoughts are in the future laden with languages intermingling into something more, rather than something less.

Why It’s Okay To Not Love Poetry About Love

Love poetry with scales and roses hanging from a hand
Illustration by Joyita Faruk

It’s “romantic”, Not Romantic

“My love is like a red, red rose…” At an initial guess, who do you think first used this line – a famous poet, or some ordinary person? Whichever you answered, you’re partially right: long before Robert Burns put it to paper, a nameless admirer must have thought it up. 

That is both the beauty and burden of writing about love; it’s a universal emotion you can express in myriad ways, so long as there are people to hear it. But… if you have explored the same subject in poetry for centuries, doesn’t it become a tired trope?

The short answer: kind of! Reading classic romance poetry as a modern brown person, there is one main pitfall – it’s often not emotionally resonant. To illustrate this, let’s discuss three revered poems in literature.

A Dissection of Classic Love Poetry

1) Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18

The subject is compared to a charming summer day, complete with literary hyperbole, and the speaker even promises that their muse’s beauty shall not be forgotten, so long as their art lives on. While the sentiment is pretty, it is difficult to connect to the poem at a practical level. The romantic love we see in our own lives (be it among our parents or in our own experiences) is not always as ideal as art and popular culture portrays, and wishing for perfection like the poet rarely succeeds. There is a sense of detachment between epical romances and the down-to-earth ones of our own – though fiction can be a welcome escape for some.

2) Emily Bronte’s Love and Friendship

“Love poetry” does include platonic relationships to a lesser prominence, but this is one which holds friendship in high regard. The poet uses an extended metaphor of the sweet but temporary rose-bloom, for romance, and the constant but plain holly, for companionship. While the imagery is effective, the common narrative in classic poetry that adoration is either ephemeral and inconsequential or greatly star-crossed, is an unfortunate one. Bronte adds to such contempt by suggesting that it is safer to disregard passion almost entirely in favour of cultivating friendship; but seeing the two as mutually exclusive is harmful, especially for those who wish to balance both. Ultimately, we as readers choose whether we value different kinds of love in the same manner.

3) Rumi’s Thou and I

There are themes of spiritual devotion here, which are implemented to create an alluring remark on love. The poet meditates on the symbolism of the afterlife, when they and their lover can be one and the same – and that even on earth and in different places, they each feel connected to the other. To be sure, the idea of true lovers sharing one soul is bewitching, and may resound with those who prefer to think of people in a relationship as a single entity. But from an individualist perspective, it can feel more liberating yet secure to accept a relationship as involving two complete souls that give happiness to one another, rather than two halves of a whole that must join for spiritual fulfillment.

What Do I Read In Love Poetry, Then?

Having examined three different poets and aspects of love in classic poetry, two questions remain: If these poems don’t resonate with you, then which might? And how do we engage with those?

On the one hand, slightly less overused poems by other renowned poets may click. It would be remiss not to mention Rabindranath, effusive in translation and deeply heartfelt in Bangla. Maya Angelou’s works are more recent classics, raw yet gentle: showcasing love in its seamless boundaries and in simple and touching ways. Sappho’s fragments from Ancient Greece are still vivid today.

On the other hand – there are more overrated love poems than just the ones analysed here, most of which fail to create a deep connection, lacking the pragmatism of real love. However, the quality of these poems depends on whether the beauty of the emotions portrayed are what draw you in, or whether they can resonate personally with the reader. The interpretations thus far were mostly based on the latter category; but what makes poetry unique amongst other art is that it is given meaning by the reader – so we are free to find what enchants us.

In Defence of Accessible Modern Poetry (That Is Not Rupi Kaur)

Modern Poetry that is not rupi kaur
Illustration by Joyita Faruk

The definition of modern poetry these days is one that forces the average reader to ask: what is poetry even? Is it a strict scheme of rhymes and a rigid number of syllables? Or is it just a bunch of words spewed and shaped in bizarre ways? In the name of accessibility, have people distorted the very existence of poetry and the beauty it entails?

Line breaks
Does not 

Good poetry make”
-Not Rupi Kaur, 2021

Modern poetry can be accessible and good. In this piece, I’ll make a case for good, accessible poetry by showcasing examples that are digestible without the flaws of Kaur-esque poetry. But before that, let’s discuss how contemporary poetry has emerged. 

Some Well-Needed History on Modern Poetry

When I say ‘modern poetry,’ I’m not referring to Modernist poetry in the 20th century, but confessional poetry. This emerged in the 50s and the 60s. It focuses on individual experiences of people, taking a deep dive into our humanity, trauma, and desires. 

Issues such as assault, suicidal tendencies, and mental illness are explored within such poems. They gained popularity partly as most of these topics are ‘taboo’, like discovering your sexuality. The aftermath of WWII and the Cold War brought a sense of despair. Individuals looked within themselves to find happiness, rather than focusing on societal issues.

Accessibility vs. Quality

I can’t deny that Rupi Kaur has made poetry accessible. However, most of her poems are underdeveloped and void of any interesting poetic techniques. A common critique is that her poems are mostly broken-up lines.

If we look at how language has evolved, it makes sense that the works of Shakespeare and Dickinson seem inaccessible. Thus, people assume all poetry is complicated. However, though Tolkien and Robert Jordan have incredibly different writing styles due to being from different eras, their works are technically sound.

Accessible Modern Poetry That’s Good: Examples

Conversations of Mental Health in Modern Poetry

The calm, 

Cool face of the river

Asked me for a kiss

Rupi Kaur is often hailed as an advocate for mental health, but I can name several poets with better poetry with the same themes. Langston Hughes’ ‘Suicide Note’ uses alliteration and enjambment – the technique of using unnatural line breaks – and is 3 lines long. It leaves you wondering if the narrator takes the jump. It is a profound exploration of how suicide feels ‘peaceful’ to someone who is depressed, with his deliberate usage of the words ‘calm’ and ‘cool.’ 

Mental health issues have been at the forefront of contemporary poetry. Poets like Sabrina Benaim and Neil Hillborn dig deep in expressing the brutality and isolation associated with mental illness. Benaim’s famous poem “Explaining My Depression to My Mother: A Conversation” portrays how trying to express yourself can seem like an insurmountable barrier; the ending lines “Mom still doesn’t understand. Mom don’t you see, neither can I?” haunts the readers long after the book has been closed.

Same Style, Different Depths of Meaning

We have calcium in our bones, iron in our veins,
Carbon in our souls, nitrogen in our brains,
93 percent stardust, with souls made of flames,
We are all just stars, that have people names
-93% Stardust, Nikita Gill

I’d argue Nikita Gill is the most similar to Rupi; she inspects many of the same themes of femininity, sexuality, heartbreak, and loneliness, but has a far wider range of techniques she uses in her work – incorporating various rhyme schemes and forms. Her use of enjambment and technique is noticeable, with meaning laced everywhere.

Leaving Traces of A Homeland

You are standing in the minefield again,
Someone who is dead now
told you it is where you will learn
to dance
-Snippet from “Tell Me Something Good,” Ocean Vuong 

Rupi Kaur has been criticized for not delving deep into her Indo-Canadian identity. In these cases, I turn to Ocean Vuong, my favorite poet. His poems dive deep into his Vietnamese-American identity, the repercussions of war, and his family history. Similarly, Warsan Shire’s poem “Conversations About Home (At The Deportation Centre)” reflects the racism faced by immigrants in a landscape that’s shifting towards anti-immigration policies.

Thus, as you can see, it is untrue that – to be ‘accessible’, quality has to be compromised upon. You can still incorporate myriad techniques; use innovative word choices. You can explore complex themes and complicated conversations with the simplest prose. At the end of the day, that’s what poetry should be – not a string of words with no semblance of meaning or grace in its verses.

South Asian Authors Exploring Modern Poetry

If someone asked me why South Asian Authors deserve more representation when it comes to modern poetry, I would say: In short, South Asian modern poetry is multilingual, multiethnic, and multicultural. The long answer would, obviously, go beyond that. Modern South Asian poetry isn’t rigid; instead, it is thematically multivalent. Authors are exploring concrete themes more than before, i.e. social factors, war, power structure, politics; instead of simply sticking to abstract beauty, nature, virtue, and morality.

Among said themes, the portrayal of war and oppression in modern South Asian poetry is dominant.

South Asian Authors Exploring Modern Poetry
South Asian Authors Exploring Modern Poetry - Illustration by Joyita Faruk

While modern Indian poetry in English is accused of writing in the language of oppressors, along with not being authentic to the Indian experience, scholars are positively looking into the possibilities of thriving beyond geographical borders, as English was used by writers to penetrate the power structure.

We need to consider that a large part of South Asian poetry was bred from diasporic writers who intermingled native linguistic textures with English. 

One such example is Agha Shahid Ali’s use of imagery and Kashmiri traditions in “A Country Without a Post Office”. Thus, these diasporic writers both resisted the hegemonic power and utilized the language of said power to represent indigenous individualities.

Ethnic violence in Sri Lanka has had a crucial impact on Tamil poets, hence their poetry has thematically been about ethnic violence, overthrowing Sinhalese’ dominance, Tamil nationalism, war, and peace. Even Bangladeshi modern authors largely deal with topics like liberation war, oppression, and glorification of freedom fighters.

South Asian Authors from A War-Torn Country

While scouring Afghan poetry, I came across an intriguing form of poetry – Landay. Landay conveys the collective experiences of Pashtun women and their voice against the oppressed mute-state.

For example:

Female south asian authors of Afghanistan

You sold me to an old man, father.

May God destroy your home, I was your daughter.

Making love to an old man

is like fucking a shrivelled cornstalk blackened by mold.


Anonymous Female South Asian Authors

For many Afghani women, poetry is a prohibited form of art. Hence, women write under pseudonyms to criticize the oppressors, ironically expressing the women’s plight. Landays become poems without poets.

The other form of Afghan poetry these days is “Taliban poetry”, expressing fury at the Americans and the fright of living under the threat of bombing.

A Deeper Look Into Other Regions

Among the South Asian countries, Pakistani poetry is offbeat, infused with fresh similes. Sinhala, the largest ethnic language of Sri Lanka, is itself a poetic language. Munidasa Kumaratunga was one of the most successful modern poets who blended folk poetry with the classical to create a sophisticated poetic diction necessary to express a modern sensibility in Sinhala poetry.

Bhutanese poets’ work is well-received among its literati besides folk poetic compositions like lozey and tsangmo. Among all the themes explored by South Asian authors, Maldivian poets’ works have less inclination towards murky themes; rather, themes like romance, spirituality, and self-reflection are found to be quite common.

Willfully Underrated, Dearth of Literary Research

The fact that the world barely knows this region’s modern poets’ work – is a case in point to support the claim that Anglophone poetry is overrepresented in the literary sphere. The underrepresentation of South Asian poetry in South Asia itself, let alone the rest of the world, explains how dominant Western poetry is inaccessible literature for the masses. Even if modern Bangla poetry and South Asian translated literature have somewhat been able to achieve global recognition; vernacular poetry like Sinhala, despite providing some of the earliest evidence of regional poetry, has been lagging. 

Regardless, an undeniable emotional bond despite having differences and individual characteristics ties the work of South Asian authors’ together. Though the poets from different South Asian countries have distinct traits and perceptions, they seemingly share certain common insights and concerns. From Nirmalendu’s revolting ideas, G.B. Senanayake’s fear of intellect that overtook emotions, Kamala’s advocacy of freedom to choose; to Mehagama Sekara’s longing for country life, Daruwalla’s stance on individuality.

Natives can now resonate with these modern poets’ works, unlike classic inaccessible elitist poetry; that’s where the modern authors have bested. We can only hope many more literary studies are conducted regionally, thereby South Asian authors’ work getting the recognition it truly deserves.

A Layperson’s Analysis: What Makes Modern Poetry Stand Out

What Makes Modern Poetry Stand Out - Blog Graphic
Illustation by Joyita Faruk

My introduction to modern poetry was late. Something I regret but I am glad I got here anyway.

I recall memorizing the analysis of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” for literature class – because why would we be given any creative freedom for presenting an analysis? Or, let’s take the effort I put into understanding William Wordsworth’s Scottish lexicon in “The Solitary Reaper”.

I am sad to inform you: my understanding of ballads and sonnets does nothing to help me understand Charles Bukowski better.

Modern poetry is synonymous with evolution – one that celebrates freedom, not just in its inferences, but also in its structure.

What makes it so unique?

Modern Poetry is More Experimental

It’s no secret the modern poet chooses to rhyme less and narrate more.

Most poetry before the 20th century had surprisingly rigid forms. You’d find the same limericks, odes, and sonnets showing up over and over again. The restricted syllable count and rhyme schemes pushed poets to think of nuanced methods to infuse meaning within the words.

On the other hand, contemporary poetry symbolizes redefining the concept of poetry entirely. One key way modern styles rebel against convention is by throwing out the need for typical rhyme schemes or stanza lengths. This form, called free verse, is what we see on Instagram and in most poetry circles today.

Even when some trace of tradition is maintained, it comes with a lot of new twists. Take haikus, for instance; gone are the days when the syllable count was restricted to 3-5-3 or 5-7-5 for each verse. Now, there’s more freedom in the various ways you can play with the ‘below 17 syllables’ rule.

Poetry today has bloomed in shapes as well. Concrete poems, with words outlining and filling the bodies of cats and gigantic continents, have added new layers of artistic ingenuity.

Hence, modern poetry challenges its notion altogether.

Modern Poetry Has Barrier-Breaking Themes

If you remember, I mention rebellion early on – that isn’t the only aspect where poetry in the twenty-first century has voiced dissent. Contemporary poetry dares to question the legitimacy of all that we put on a moral pedestal, whether it be gender norms or God.

Activism has intertwined far deeper into the vines of art through poetry. Previously ‘taboo’ issues, such as menstruation and mental health, are talked about far more.

As war efforts have decreased significantly, or have become more covert, war songs have become rare. In its stead, activist poetry is booming.

It’s popular in a particular style of spoken word poetry called slam poetry – where the poet recites their stanzas at a brisk pace.

The intensity of emotions expressed now lay on the tip of the poet’s tongue; they still craft stories through their poems – just through another medium.

Where Victorian literature had opted to give everything rosiness and grandiosity through its descriptions, modern poets veered away – towards the smaller things in life. A deeper appreciation for the mundane resulted afterward, as well as the birth of a more mindful (but still nihilistic) series of poems.

Poems regarding love, life, family, and death remain the most popular themes. Yet, the stories told and retold through them have changed considerably. The family that was once a sanctuary now offers vivid descriptions of neglect. An entire generation is wrestling with accepting death as a more viable solution to life’s problems. (Jeez.)

More Focus On Interpretation

The rise of prose poetry came from the desire to weave anecdotes with greater ease. Poets tend to write as early as the words form, often in a very disorganized manner. This unusual syntax resonates with the thought process of the youth far better.

Aside from accessible language and irregular phrases with jagged endings, there is more to contemporary poetry. It has maintained the subtle meanings left to be excavated by the readers – as is the essence of poetry, I believe. However, what has changed is the extent of the readers’ interpretation

In earlier works, the reader had to search for clues to understand what the poet implied. Recent works have shifted away from this and have far more ambiguous and open-ended poems, allowing the readers to extrapolate meaning relevant to their personal struggles and aspirations. It’s no surprise that people turn to poetry so often – it’s a form of writing that can be understood by at least someone, if not everyone.

To More Diverse Poetry

Modern poetry remains mysterious through its rebellious nature and unbound experimentation. Its appeal lies in its exploration into ideas beyond just the hopeful parts of reality. Seeing all of this, I believe it will continue to evolve and find innovative ways to tell more and more mundane stories.