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Poetry in AmericaThe Poetry Foundation releases the first scientific study of American


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#1 Cliff

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Posted 11 April 2006 - 08:52 PM

The Chicago Tribune summarizes a survey of readers and potential readers of poetry.
Survey says: Folks at home enjoy a poem

The report estimates that 14 percent of American adults read or listen to poetry.

Poetry users tend to have never married and to be younger than 55. The 18-to-24 age group is particularly keen. Poetry users are not loners. With the exception of watching TV, they tend to participate in leisure activities more than do non-users. That includes sports -- tennis and Tennyson, anyone?

And poetry users are more likely to keep up with family and friends. Poetry haters, a phone call to your mother is too much to ask?



The full report is at Poetry in America: Overview

#2 kfw

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 06:58 AM

Thanks for posting this, Cliff. I think of senior citizens as the most likely among us to have been introduced to poetry in school, and of course they have the most leisure time. So I'm surprised by the finding that people under 55 are more than twice as likely to read and listen to poetry (not the abominable term "use" -- the writer himself must not read poetry) than those over 55. The infirmities of old age must keep that number down. I wonder how many of the elderly who love to read and can still do so read poetry.

#3 bart

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 07:59 AM

Interesting research, and good p.r. for poetry. I wonder, though, how "poetry" was defined in the poll itself. If the respondents were allowed to self-define the term, the significance of the results might be significantly altered. After all, Hallmark compilations are poetry, too.

I was interested in the following:

QUOTE: "Poetry in America offers broad support for several Foundation initiatives under way. According to the report, the Internet holds great potential as a delivery system for poetry. Visitors to www.PoetryFoundation.org will discover an extensive resource with lively features for both newcomers and seasoned readers. Many people hear and read poetry at ceremonies, according to the report. The Web site includes the "Poetry Tool," which is designed to help people find poems for births, weddings, funerals, and other momentous occasions. It also helps readers find poems that offer insight into their lives—a major benefit of poetry, according to the study. PoetryFoundation.org also makes it easy to share poetry via email—a practice that is surprisingly common among non-readers as well as readers."

Seems like they are beginning to spend the income from their $100 million Lilly inheritance.

#4 kfw

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 08:26 AM

QUOTE: The Web site includes the "Poetry Tool," which is designed to help people find poems for births, weddings, funerals, and other momentous occasions. It also helps readers find poems that offer insight into their lives—a major benefit of poetry, according to the study.

No doubt the tool will prompt some people to read serious poetry. But at the risk of being a snob, I must say I find this consumer mentality, this utilitarian approach to the art also to be observed in the Chicago Tribune's article, distasteful. Far better -- potentially far more enriching -- to sit down with a book of poetry and meet the poet.

#5 dirac

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 09:42 AM

I wouldn’t be too hard on the Tribune writer. It looks as if, judging by the context, that “user” and “non-user” were terms chosen by the survey takers. Infelicitous, but it sounds to me as if they were looking for a broader term than “reader.”

bart writes:

Interesting research, and good p.r. for poetry. I wonder, though, how "poetry" was defined in the poll itself. If the respondents were allowed to self-define the term, the significance of the results might be significantly altered. After all, Hallmark compilations are poetry, too.



True. I didn’t think there was any stunning news here, but I did note the paragraph below:

But the classroom may be the crucible. Those who, as students, read, memorized, recited and wrote poetry tended to continue with verse. Non-users were more likely to have only read poetry and to cite a specific teacher for turning them off verse. Non-users were more likely to describe poetry as boring, abstruse or irrelevant.



Thanks for posting the link, Cliff . Very interesting topic.

#6 bart

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 09:53 AM

And I guess the "Poetry Tool" on the website is designed to turn passive readers into "users." Not a bad idea, when you think about it. For funerals it would certainly provide an alternative to the omnipresent 23rd Psalm.

I wonder if research shows "users" (consumers) becoming "producers" (i.e. poetry writers) in time. :)

Coincidentally, I've just finished Adam Feinstein's bioraphy of Pablo Neruda (Pablo Neruda: a Passion for Life). It's hard to remember that there was a time when some poets were able to fill stadiums in many countries -- and certainly very large auditoriums here in the US -- and when the public voice of poetry played a role in changing the world. That might be worth spending the $100 million to achieve.

Thanks, cliff, for introducing this.

#7 kfw

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 10:30 AM

Bart, I'm sure you're right that the Tool is, um, useful. Dirac, thanks for setting me straight about who came up with "user." I can't think of another word that encompasses both "reader" and "listener", but I would have preferred even something cumbersome like "People who sought out poetry" or "Poetry Readers/Listeners." I mean, reading poetry ought to be useful in resisting unfortunate new language usages. :) (Perhaps like the one in that last sentence).

#8 GWTW

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 12:30 PM

Caroline (sp?) Kennedy was interviewed yesterday on NPR promoting her new anthology of poetry for children, "A Family of Poems". She mentioned that instead of buying gifts at Christmas and on birthdays, her mother (Jackie Kennedy) preferred to receive a poem and Caroline would spend time in choosing or composing a poem and then decorating a card with the poem.
The interview was mainly fluff, but it obviously achieved its purpose as I am now considering buying the book. :)


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