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Poetry is DEAD (and I Know Why)

mens coach mens program poetry May 18, 2024
Benny Wills
Read time: 6 minutes


Why don't we like poetry anymore?

For five years, poetry was my passion and my purpose. I performed at “truth,” “freedom,” and “liberty” themed conferences and events all around the world. 

It was one of the most awesome chapters of my life. 

Throughout that time I received a lot of compliments and praise. Which I am grateful for. It’s not easy to impress someone with a poem.

One of the most common bits of feedback I would get after a performance was:

“I don’t like poetry, but I like yours.” 

Thank you. And I agree.

But I'm a hypocrite because I also love poetry. It’s a beautiful and timeless art form. As long as there have been people, there have been poets. 

Poets are chroniclers of history. They capture the spirit, values and struggles of their time. They preserve language, traditions and collective memory.

Poetry offers philosophical insights into the nature of existence, the human condition and the mystery of life.

A good poem can penetrate into the deepest part of our souls, and provide clarity and solace in times of turmoil.

So what happened? 

It’s simple.

Poetry has been bastardized. The bar has been lowered. Poems today are no longer well-constructed. They aren’t melodic and metered. They are not works of art. They are rants. Rough drafts. Unedited mind vomit. With no other intention than to evoke sympathy from the audience.

Not ALL modern poetry is like this, of course. But a lot of it is.

Poetry has devolved. Go to any open mic, or “slam,” and tell me that I’m wrong. I can almost guarantee someone will get on stage and say something like, "I wrote this on the way here." 


I’ve been to several such events and it’s always cringe-inducing. I know I sound like a snob. But it’s because I love poetry. 

It’s whiny. It celebrates victimhood. It’s obviously, even objectively, bad poetry!

But the audience applauds anyway. 

If someone were to sit down at a piano, and then proceed to bang on the keys instead of playing a song, would you clap? Probably not. Unless maybe they were a toddler.

That’s what I equate (most) modern day poetry too. And that’s why you think you don’t like it. 

A poem is an idea simplified. Encapsulated. And writing one forces you to be as specific and clear as possible with what you want to say and convey. It’s no different than sculpting a statue or painting a picture. It is a transference of your inner world into something tangible in the outer. 

And it takes work. Works of art take work. And that is where modern day poetry has lost the plot.


Everyone’s a Poet

Everyone is born a poet - a person discovering the way words sound and work, caring and delighting in words. I just kept on doing what everyone starts out doing. The real question is: Why did other people stop?

- William Stafford

One of the exercises inside my communication program, Free Your Speech (formerly Parrhesia), is to write a poem. It comes at the end of a module called, The Masterpiece of Your Life. I go deep into the creative process and what it takes to produce a good and meaningful work of art.

I taught the class live for six seasons. And every time, without fail, the poetry my students created was excellent. It was the highlight of the class.

If you struggle to “find the words” when discussing controversial topics, if you misrepresent your ideas and opinions in conversations—write a poem. 

To begin:

  • Choose a topic and free write. Pen to page without stopping. Write down all of your thoughts and feelings about the topic.  
  • Don’t critique or second-guess yourself until you’ve gotten it all out.
  • Pause.
  • Look at what you’ve written. See it as a ball of unformed clay.
  • Start sculpting. Refining. Editing. 
  • Play with it until you love it. Until you can’t wait to share it. 

That's a very stripped down version of my technique, but you get the essence, nonetheless.

Not only will you have a poem. You’ll have newfound confidence in your ability to discuss the topic you wrote about. Because you put words to it. Specific, considered and carefully chosen words. Written with intention from the heart. Now you'll speak more clearly, more easily and more calmly than before.

Because you took the time to write about it. To make sense of your own mind. To understand your deepest convictions regarding something important to you. But you didn't stop there. You took the extra step. You filtered all of it through the sublime, under-utilized upper level of your expression. Creativity. 

It’s like magic.

Every human has four endowments - self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.

- Stephen Covey


Poetry is Dead

A crowd favorite of mine is one I have never shared online.

It’s called, Poetry is Dead. And it goes like this:


It was a windy wet Wednesday when I realized
To my surprise that poetry had died
A big fat fork had been stuck in it
A big fat lady had sung
A big fat dork had dumped on it 
And buried it 
Under a big fat pile of big fat dung


I clung to the hope that maybe
Some person there among
Could revive, invoke, resuscitate 
My fallen poetic chum 
“Come on” I whispered
“Come on” I said
“At least lift him off the ground” 
“Him?” A voice came back at me 
“Careful with your pronouns”
At that exact moment I swear I heard
From somewhere far away
It was Edgar Allan Poe, I think 
Rolling in his grave 


Alas, my heart therein my chest 
pitter-pattered anxiously 
The coffee shop wherein the slam commenced
A social justice pageantry 
ME ME ME ME victim
I have feelings, many feelings 
That I typed into my phone
All my feelings I’m revealing
So as not to feel alone
All alone…
One of my feelings is anger
Resentment is one too
Is blame a feeling?
‘Cause I’m feeling it 
And I’m blaming it on you!
Screw you ex-boyfriend 
I’m sort of sometimes gay now
I’m queer as folk
That ain’t no joke
Please refer to me as “they” now 
When I was 9 something bad happened
Something, yadda yadda, really bad happened 
Something wounded me affecting me
A lot in fact, infinity!
Something that was said or something that was done,
Was something really really bad 
That was the thing that’s bad that happened to me
To ME!
To me, or not to me? 
Wrong answer
www dot me me me
Dot com
Forward slash / not anymore
For, in spite of all I have evolved
By allowing myself permission, without restriction or constriction
To be permanently offended 
And ignore what you intended
And righteously avow 
To completely disavow 
The seeming lack thereof
Your love
Hark, above, a dove
There, the sun is done 
It sets
Darkening my heart 
And I want you and everyone here to know that I’m hurting
And I want you and everyone here to know that I’m wanting
You to want to feel sorry for me
Please feel sorry for me
I’m not here to beg but I am begging
Pretty please with sugar and a maraschino cherry on top
Feel sorry for me
How many more ways can I say it?
How many more ways can I convey it?
A lot 
But my time’s not up 
Not yet
Not on this stage 
Not in this coffee shop
Not in this life
Not in front of this mic
That’s open
For me me me
To relay to you you you my feelings that I’m dealing with 
For three long-winded never-ending minutes
Until my time is up
Men, your time is up
Gender is fluid
Thank you

Poetry is dead
Like I said
Poetry is no more 
Poetry is done, diddly, doo dah, dead for a ducat, dead 
Lying lifeless on the floor 
But it doesn’t have to be 
Open mic nights
Could be great nights
If you invest a little more into your pieces
Writing from the heart
Is the perfect place to start
But with editing its potency increases
Take time when you’re creating
Take care with words you preach
Speak to not at your audience
And many you shall reach
Millions of poems have been written
Yet few do we remember
Read the classics and study them
And then
Proceed to write yours betterer  


You have a masterpiece inside of you. Many masterpieces. Create them already! Don't be so stubborn with your gifts.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

- Maya Angelou

Learn my framework. Click Here to Free Your Speech.

Until next time.

Much love,


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