You can’t write a poem so that that poem can be famous. You can only write a poem that is worthy of being famous. And if it does not become famous? Maybe it was not worthy of being famous. Or maybe it was “passed over by the grand horrible entitled machinery of the establishment leviathan who wouldn’t know good poetry if it slapped them in the tenure.” Or perhaps it “didn’t satisfy the shallow hungers of a Buzzfeed-ified media landscape where only meme-worthy clickbait poems of this exact moment in time and no other grab the groveling masses’ attention.”
Or, maybe fame is not what a poem should be about in the first place.
“Learned helplessness” is a term that describes when an individual or community has been conditioned not even to try to avoid suffering. This term was the result of an absolutely wretched 1960s experiment in which they shocked the hell out of a dog over a long period of time, and then, even if the dog were given the opportunity to escape from the shocks it didn’t—it had already succumbed to an utter lack of hope.
We as poets must fight against this sense of learned helplessness. Although it’s possible we’ve been shocked—by student loan debt, by mountains of rejections, by the rarity of good jobs—when someone opens the door we need to be ready to walk through it.
A great metaphor: if architects want to fix a decrepit arch they do what would seem counterintuitive: they put more weight on it. This is why we shouldn’t necessarily try to relieve existential tension to improve our situation, but rather we should compound the situation in hopes of ending up stronger in the future.
So, perhaps to cure the oft-lamented cultural ills of poetry, we need to bring this pot to a boil. Get mad. Throw poems into the ocean. Scream them. Renounce them. Make writing a poem a criminal act. The more poets we have in prisons, the better off the art will be.