There was a time when poetry was the epitome of “usefulness” – it was used for remembering. Cultures passed down their histories, laws, myths, and genealogies through verse that was first memorized and recited, then later, when literacy developed, written down.
Later still, poetry was considered prime entertainment: in Heian Japan, for instance, the nobility would gather for parties during which they would compose renga, linked poems, for hours. This is not “useful” in the most practical sense, of course, but distraction—from boredom, sorrow, anxiety, etc.—is useful in human life.
Today, is functionality beside the point? Is it “art for art’s sake,” even in a vacuum? Are we content to practice our art in a vacuum? Are we practicing our art in a vacuum?
Regardless: I am bitter about the place of poetry in our culture. As opposed to the place of, say, “Two and a Half Men” in our culture. Or the place of football, People magazine, “Jersey Shore,” Justin Bieber, “American Idol,” Twilight, and Dave & Busters. I am guilty, too, of perpetuating the status of some items in that list. I admit that I would almost always rather drink beer and watch “Jersey Shore” than read poetry, so I am part of the problem.