The traditions of folklore date back as far as man has existed. Man’s need to make sense of the world around him and his own emotions has compelled him to record such feelings and events. Before the advent of the written word, the oral tradition prevailed and allowed a communication between family and friends and different generations. This format became the folklore that would preserve the culture and identity of any given group. Similarly, the poem has a long-held oral tradition and has much in common with the process of such oral traditions.
The written word, by definition, must be read to be conveyed and this is chiefly a solitary exercise. The freedom of the spoken word has been accessible to anyone who could speak and is enjoyed by anyone who can hear and understand that language, thus the audience is potentially greater, and the passing and preserving of thoughts and information much swifter. Such oral traditions have successfully covered knowledge, ideas, art and matters pertaining to the culture, but its consistency and reliability may be questionable. However, in the realms of storytelling, be it through verse or prose, the spoken word is powerful and often enhanced by the subtle changes that might result from each rendition.
It was not uncommon for individuals to tell their tale through song, and thus the oral rendition may have been spoken or sung. Poetry has much in common with this, and although most people experience poetry in the written form, it is when it is read that it fully comes to life! The poetic nature of the songwriter’s verse is undeniable and that is exactly what links the traditional oral folklore and the poem.
All these mediums share the intent of conveying information, emotion and commentary of the world, be it that of the individual or a group or even a nation. Even in the fantasy of the epic poem, the author may seek to share an understanding of the human condition and thus speak to all of us. The stories of folk lore succeed in like manner to tell of events and history that will bear relevance over time and be absorbed into the culture of the next generation. The substance of these tales has, in some part, been preserved with recording in writing, but sadly many tales have still been lost.
Luckily, there would seem to be a reawakening of the need for the spoken or sung word, and a recognition that although the visual stimulation supplied by television and video is gratifying, it also removes much of the human interaction that connected people in the act of traditional story telling. An unexpected alliance allows for the spoken word to be heard through social media with a minimum of effort and expense. Modern poets with their own epic stories to tell can publish and record their work for all to access freely. Drawing on a need to similarly maintain their culture or pass on the learned experiences, we see that, much as folklore served to educate and inform, the modern poet strives to do the same.