In different ways, music, painting, and poetry each split into two: a cerebral, avant-garde version devoted to extending the modernist experiment; and a popular version that appealed to mass audiences without knowledge of the art’s traditions and conventions. The “serious” artists made a Tantalean bargain with the academy, which gave them a secure living and a measure of prestige while cutting them off from what any artist wants most—an actual audience. The popular artists won a level of fame and fortune that would have been unimaginable in the past, but what they do is not really art—or, better, not the same art.

If poetry is to remain relevant, distinguishing “art” from “pop” helps no one. Rather, it seems all poems inhabit ranges: good/bad, evocative/trite, innovative/conventional, euphonic/atonal, literal/allusive…and poems (and poets) can be measured against one another along these continua.

On “getting” poetry | New Criterion