Poetry, said Charles Bukowski, "is what happens when nothing else can." Goethe described the fundamental elements of life as such: "Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words." Seamus Heaney describes the experiment of poetry as what "happens when the poem carries you beyond where you could have reasonably expected to go."
The greatest literary minds of history have never forgotten the power or the purpose of poetry. But in this digitally driven century, most of us have. A study from the National Endowment for the Arts estimated that the already pitiful 12 percent of Americans reading poetry in 2002 had been nearly halved by 2012. Ouch.
But the attention deficit epidemic we're facing actually makes us more primed for poetry than ever—or at least, that's my opinion. Perhaps the generation of 140-characters-or-less just needed a poet to translate that "rhythmical creation of Beauty" into a medium that feels, to them, accessible.
Enter Tyler Knott Gregson, whose 560,000 Instagram and Tumblr followers have translated into one nationally best-selling poetry book and a second, titled All the Words Are Yours, which just reached the No. 3 spot on Nielsen's list of best-selling poetry titles—knocking down folks like Dante, Homer, and Khalil Gibran.
Gregson's bite-size nuggets stem, like all poetry, from a need to express himself. He told the New York Times, "I’ve always written as a way to relieve pressure in my brain." His first book, Chasers of the Light, was the result of his finding a typewriter in a vintage store. He typed the collection's first poem while he was still in the store. Every poem in the series was typed on a typewriter, onto scraps of paper, or via blackout method.
His second published collection, All the Words Are Yours, is a series of haiku pulled from a six-year practice of writing a haiku a day. Some of the poems have been posted on Tyler's Tumblr account, and some have never been seen before. Many are accompanied by original photographs taken by Gregson himself. He runs a wedding photography company called Treehouse Photography, co-founded with Sarah Linden.
So, next time you feel inclined the bemoan the end of print media and the exponential exaltation of all things virtual, take a look at some of the meaningful, moving art this era as produced. And remember that the global dissemination of art would not be possible were it not for that www.
To set you off on the right path, here are seven of our favorite haiku from All the Words Are Yours. Share your favorite on social media, and maybe you'll remind someone else of the enduring value of the written word—in whatever form it comes.