Some questions are never answered. In 1977, John Ashbery posed such a question, one that has resounded through the years with no clear end in sight. This poet had a possible “answer,” and he expressed it in (what else?) a poem. Now, another poet finds a new shade of possibility in the question, uncovering a perspective that is thoroughly relevant and postmodern. The world has changed, and as it changes, the rate of change seems to become more exponential in nature. What is recycled, what is lost, in the span of time that falls between 1977 and today? Perhaps poetry lies somewhere among our fabrications of the past, our current disillusions. There are two questions here. What is life? McKenzie, one of our summer camp writers, gives us a possible definition, revealing her astounding maturity and insight.

The Definition of Poetry

Inspired by John Ashbery’s “What Is Poetry”

Urban decay and
depressive Romanticism,
prolific musical energy
of once derelict dive bar jukeboxes.

Garishly lighted all-night convenience stores
coated in the DayGlo imprint
of Egyptian hip-hop
and nostalgia-filled salad days.

Retro sets spotlight a queen who is dead
from the raves of yesteryear
and guilty pleasures pop
under an oversized disco ball.

A preponderance of prefab
made up for with a loud voice.

McKenzie, twelfth grade, Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp at Hope Presbyterian Church

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