So it seems a recent NEA report finds fiction reading on the rise, while poetry readership has taken a nosedive. Here's an inevitable "is the art form dying?" piece from Newsweek.
Read it here.
Critics have been signaling the end of poetry for years: Edmund Wilson said so in his 1928 essay "Is Verse a Dying Technique?", sixty years later Joseph Epstein said it was murdered in his essay "Who Killed Poetry?", and most recently Dana Gioia wrote a piece in 1991 entitled "Can Poetry Matter?" All of them seemed to rail on their contemporary poems being written by academics, elitists, and specialists.
While poetry is a niche market and will always be a niche market like the way opera and many other arts are, people from all walks of life continue to read poetry just as all different kinds of poets continue to write poetry.
Don't believe me? Check out The Favorite Poem Project. It was founded by former US Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky, who set out to document and celebrate American's love for poetry. During a one-year open call for submissions, he was overwhelmed by responses from 18,000 Americans from ages 5-97, from every state, with diverse occupations, education and backgrounds who wrote to Pinsky and shared their favorite poems and personal stories of why those poems were so meaningful in their lives.
This year during the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, a Connecticut branch of The Favorite Poem Project is going to mirror Pinksy's original concept and the whole state of Connecticut will be versified. I'll be involved in this year's Favorite Poem Project in New Haven, too, so stay tuned...
For more info on the Connecticut Favorite Poem Project, click here.
Regardless of all the gloom and doom, poetry just keeps on truckin'. I'm not worried. It's a gorgeous spring day, I think I'm going to go make myself a cheese sandwich and down some orange juice. Maybe that'll inspire a poem. Maybe not. But so long as poets keep on scribbling, there will still be folks out there reading.
For an uplifting read, check out Donald Hall's essay "Death to the Death of Poetry".