Me--I'm in the "love it" camp.
But I do recognize that part of what pushes people into the "can't abide it" camp has to do with not understanding how it works.
So, I'd like to do two things in this post: explore the changing taste in poetry, and begin to explain how modern poetry works.
There may be some of you who remember memorizing poetry in school. If you did memorize, you have identified yourself with an older generation. Such memorization has gone by the wayside. In part, that may be due to the fact that the poems you memorized are no longer fashionable. You memorized poetry that had used external patterns as the means to achieve poetic cohesion: it had distinct rhythm, meter and rhyme.
Even if you don't know what those words mean, you recognize them when you say a poem, and allow it to fall into the sing-song measures. Here's an example:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
(From Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Kubla Khan)
Let "da" represent an unstressed syllable, and "dum" represent a stressed syllable.
So, here's how a line in the verse sounds rhythmically:
Da dum da dum da dum da dum
That is rhythm. And counting each da dum is meter. And the sound of words matching at the end of the line--that is rhyme.
Older poetry uses these tools quite a lot to bind the poem together. In fact, many people feel as though they are not reading a poem unless they can identify these elements. And when they read the poem, likely these elements are exaggerated, so the sing-song effect is magnified. In fairness, the external elements DO aid in memorizing.
I have never been fond of this type of poetry. Sometimes the external elements so overpower the internal meaning of the poem. A prime example of this would be Poe's The Raven. I mean, you all remember the line "Quoth the raven nevermore"--but, honestly, do you remember anything else about the poem?Around the end of the 19th century, some poets began to experiment more with poetic form. Some dispensed with the external cohesive elements altogether--think Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson. Other poets could use the external elements of rhythm, meter and rhyme, but they began to push the form.
You can look to some of the 19th century poets to begin to see this shift in poetic form. Someone such as William Butler Yeats, who lived in both the 19th and 20th century, embodies the shift. You have a wonderfully traditional poem in his When You Are Old, and the beginnings of a modern poem in Sailing to Byzantium. Sailing to Byzantium observes the conventions of rhythm, meter and rhyme, but each line pushes the content over into the next line, so that the effect of the external element disappears.
Read the poem out loud. First, read it stopping at the end of each line. Then read it out loud, reading with the sentence--so that "the young in one another's arms" becomes the spoken line, not where the external break occurs.
THAT is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
(Sailing to Byzantium by William Butler Yeats)
Here endeth the lesson. Next time, I will show how modern poetry uses internal elements to achieve cohesion in a poem.