Written for: Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads: Weekend Challenge – The News
(posted by Brendan)
The amount of news we are now confronted with is immense. In 2011, information scientists deduced that Americans took in five times as much information every day as they did in 1986‚the equivalent of 175 newspapers (See Daniel Levitin, The Organized Mind). And that was before the advent of social media. (In a 2016 Pew Research poll, 44 percent of Americans say they get their news from Facebook.) Yet the information glut is far more from other fields of entertainment, like streaming movies, gaming and porn.
For one thing, most of poetry’s news comes from the heart, a place that is too serious for idle entertainment and far too deadly earnest to waste energy on fake news.
And although a poem can be elaborately tuned, poetry remains naked communication— simple, honest and direct.
Poetry has few ulterior motivations. It sells nothing and is paid less.
Then there is the sense of what the novelist E.L. Doctorow called bearing witness to a magnitude. Our poems are the Rorschach prints of our age. We write the news about the news, in synesthesiac detail.
Finally, there is great economy in the news brought by poetry. News is a gift brought back from the Otherworld, it is the knowledge that is hard to attain. This is news the world can use.
So let’s write about the news. What is the news that poetry brings to the world? When did some news suddenly change your world, and how? What is it like to live in a news-saturated world? How is our sense of reality changing with the silos that have formed with such different ways of seeing things? How to bridge that gap between knowledge and action?
And what about the soul’s, the heart’s news? Do things we learn from inner sources differ than news of the world? Is there such a thing as a glut of soul news?
What about news we get from afar – the Otherworld, the hearts of our beloveds, the dead?
And in this time when national news is breaking by the seeming hour, what is the news of the tribe’s enduring and seasoning and becoming?
One criticism of this glut is that the more we know, the less we do. This was argued by Ned Postman in his 1984 book Amusing Ourselves To Death, a diatribe against the killing effect of TV entertainment culture on public discourse. (It is frighteningly prescient of our Internet age, as Megan Garber recently illustrated in The Atlantic.) In an news-saturated universe, “most of (it) is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action.” “We have here a great loop of impotence: The news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except to offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing.”
In the Internet age, there has also been a devaluing of the truth in news as consumers of news have infinite choice in their sources, many of which prize attention over reality. Very gripping report on the alt-right and related online hate groups from Data & Society titled “Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online.” (The worst bit of news there is that a growing sub-tribe mixes real hate with just-kidding-irony so that there is no way to know whether an utterance is odious or offensively tedious.)
More knowledge about the world is shrinking our empathy for it. This was demonstrated in a 2007 study of online dating where participants were given more and less information about their prospective partners. Ambiguity was the clear winner. The where the researchers concluded, “Although people believe that knowing leads to liking, knowing more means liking less.” Worse for all of us, the more our tribe thinks they know about each other, the sharper our sense of difference, the easier it attach to filter bubbles where everyone seems the same.
Blood fills, spills
into my brain. No
drain for inhumanity,
war, famine, homelessness,
and sheer stupidity.
Must protect my heart,
keep it apart from daily
horrors, and circus acts.
I look to enduring news–
nature’s colors. Paint
my heart in green grass,
gold sun, purple irises,
and pink peonies. Seek
out smiles, strain to hear
laughter. Cannot imagine