As some of you may know I was applying, and have recently been accepted into Grad School, now I need to find money. So as I'm browsing through the internet looking for scholarships for white kids with an upper middle class background but no money for grad school I came upon a little essay contest.

The question was, What is the future of the printed word? I was given a maximum of 750 words to answer the question.

Anyway, I whipped up this little gem in about a half hour, I'm convinced it won't win any money, but I thought it worth sharing with the class

The future of the written word or at the very least the printed word is never going to be a question of quantity but of quality. Thomas Friedman is saying the world is flat, that never before has it been easier for people around the world to share thoughts, to share words, and to share writing. Dan Brown writes fiction claiming that the arrow of history has been fired well above and over the average head, but remains straight and easy to follow. His runaway international best seller opens up the past, however fictionalized, to people who can now dispel myths and rumors and go on fact finding missions without ever leaving their breakfast nook. Every passing year brings more books than the last and never before have bookstores become so daunting to aspiring young writers.

The technologies we’ve embraced, or that have engulfed us are beginning to raise the question as to the necessity of printed books, but the real question has and will remain does the ease of publishing massive amounts of printed material foster better writing? When Gutenberg gave us a readable Bible, did the world respond by producing better Catholics?

There is something powerful about books, the process of their creation and the finished product. It might be due to the fact that our formative years were spent in schools, and the textbooks revealed the world to us one unquestionable kernel of knowledge at a time. As children these tomes are the infallible presence of truth, and so even as adults, knowing that the people who scripted those dry and less than captivating monologues are just as likely to make mistakes as our teachers were, we still lend the finished novel a piece of that awe. The novelists may not walk on water, but they might make it a few steps in if we close our eyes.

The book that has influenced this essay is a used copy of William Mathew’s After All: Last Poems, specifically due to the way the book found its way onto my shelf. The author doesn’t write about the impending doom that blackberries will reap upon the publishing industry, he writes about his children, about his ex-wife, and about jazz legends dying. The only cryptic prediction of his own mortality is held in the title.

The book came into my possession in exchange for a single dollar, as if the memory of the poet had already faded entirely from the consciousness of this newly globalized world. Why does this particular book or this sad bargain have anything to do with the future of books? The answer is simple, poetry is dead. There might be a number of reasons why, but for most readers, there isn’t even a compulsion to ask anymore. It could be that the ballads of popular music, of rock and rap and soul and blues have siphoned poetry from the bookstores and expelled onto the liner notes of instrument solos. It could be that the pastoral became permanently obscured in the smoke of our cities, and the sweat of our climb up the corporate ladders, with no room left in our busy hearts for a retreat into the silly world without grammar, and without the rigid rules and razor sharp paragraph lines down the margins of the page.

Whatever happened, the fate of poetry was ultimately sealed. The world’s best selling poets are authors for toddlers and the poet-laureate will undoubtedly not be assaulted by groupies anytime soon. This book contained a man, all his flaws, all his obsessions, and all the beauty he could wring from the world, like the last drops of water from the dish sponge. If poetry can die, than so too can novels, and magazines, and newspapers. If music killed the poet’s profit margin, than why can’t TV and the internet, and youtube and instant downloadable DVD’s kill all that is left in the printed world?

Ultimately there has always been the question of whether we can measure ourselves through our words or our actions. Histories greatest heroes and most depraved sadists were measured by their Earthly deeds. So now in this era of instants it has become that much easier to dismiss the dizzying amount of words, the infinite neatly piled rows of opinions to gather our heroes and tyrants across the digital pixilated world we’ve created, and if the power of words is to continue it’s decline by over saturation, who will be willing to build our new libraries?

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