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Who Reads Poetry: 50 Views from “Poetry” Magazine

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Who reads poetry? We know that poets do, but what about the rest of us?  When and why do we turn to verse?  Seeking the answer, Poetry magazine since 2005 has published a column called “The View From Here,” which has invited readers “from outside the world of poetry” to describe what has drawn them to poetry. Over the years, the incredibly diverse set of contributors have Who reads poetry? We know that poets do, but what about the rest of us?  When and why do we turn to verse?  Seeking the answer, Poetry magazine since 2005 has published a column called “The View From Here,” which has invited readers “from outside the world of poetry” to describe what has drawn them to poetry. Over the years, the incredibly diverse set of contributors have included philosophers, journalists, musicians, and artists, as well as doctors and soldiers, an iron-worker, an anthropologist, and an economist. This collection brings together fifty compelling pieces, which are in turns surprising, provocative, touching, and funny.   In one essay, musician Neko Case calls poetry “a delicate, pretty lady with a candy exoskeleton on the outside of her crepe-paper dress.” In another, anthropologist Helen Fisher turns to poetry while researching the effects of love on the brain, “As other anthropologists have studied fossils, arrowheads, or pot shards to understand human thought, I studied poetry. . . . I wasn’t disappointed: everywhere poets have described the emotional fallout produced by the brain’s eruptions.” Even film critic Roger Ebert memorized the poetry of e. e. cummings, and the rapper Rhymefest attests here to the self-actualizing power of poems: “Words can create worlds, and I’ve discovered that poetry can not only be read but also lived out. My life is a poem.” Music critic Alex Ross tells us that he keeps a paperback of The Palm at the End of the Mind by Wallace Stevens on his desk next to other, more utilitarian books like a German dictionary, a King James Bible, and a Macintosh troubleshooting manual.   Who Reads Poetry offers a truly unique and broad selection of perspectives and reflections, proving that poetry can be read by everyone. No matter what you’re seeking, you can find it within the lines of a poem.  


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Who reads poetry? We know that poets do, but what about the rest of us?  When and why do we turn to verse?  Seeking the answer, Poetry magazine since 2005 has published a column called “The View From Here,” which has invited readers “from outside the world of poetry” to describe what has drawn them to poetry. Over the years, the incredibly diverse set of contributors have Who reads poetry? We know that poets do, but what about the rest of us?  When and why do we turn to verse?  Seeking the answer, Poetry magazine since 2005 has published a column called “The View From Here,” which has invited readers “from outside the world of poetry” to describe what has drawn them to poetry. Over the years, the incredibly diverse set of contributors have included philosophers, journalists, musicians, and artists, as well as doctors and soldiers, an iron-worker, an anthropologist, and an economist. This collection brings together fifty compelling pieces, which are in turns surprising, provocative, touching, and funny.   In one essay, musician Neko Case calls poetry “a delicate, pretty lady with a candy exoskeleton on the outside of her crepe-paper dress.” In another, anthropologist Helen Fisher turns to poetry while researching the effects of love on the brain, “As other anthropologists have studied fossils, arrowheads, or pot shards to understand human thought, I studied poetry. . . . I wasn’t disappointed: everywhere poets have described the emotional fallout produced by the brain’s eruptions.” Even film critic Roger Ebert memorized the poetry of e. e. cummings, and the rapper Rhymefest attests here to the self-actualizing power of poems: “Words can create worlds, and I’ve discovered that poetry can not only be read but also lived out. My life is a poem.” Music critic Alex Ross tells us that he keeps a paperback of The Palm at the End of the Mind by Wallace Stevens on his desk next to other, more utilitarian books like a German dictionary, a King James Bible, and a Macintosh troubleshooting manual.   Who Reads Poetry offers a truly unique and broad selection of perspectives and reflections, proving that poetry can be read by everyone. No matter what you’re seeking, you can find it within the lines of a poem.  

30 review for Who Reads Poetry: 50 Views from “Poetry” Magazine

  1. 4 out of 5

    chantel nouseforaname

    Compilations like this always have a profound impact on me. I love when people from a variety of industries, practices, and walks of life come together to wax poetic on a particular topic. Double-love when that topic is one that I love, like music or poetry. Who Reads Poetry finds poets and artists next to journalists, doctors, reporters, a three-star retired army general, composers, magazine editors, actors, a web developer, midwife, anthropologist, a baseball player, illustrators, comics of al Compilations like this always have a profound impact on me. I love when people from a variety of industries, practices, and walks of life come together to wax poetic on a particular topic. Double-love when that topic is one that I love, like music or poetry. Who Reads Poetry finds poets and artists next to journalists, doctors, reporters, a three-star retired army general, composers, magazine editors, actors, a web developer, midwife, anthropologist, a baseball player, illustrators, comics of all types, an ecologist, parliamentarian, and various other folks who came together to share their experience with poetry. There were so many highlights that I can't count them all. A few standouts to me include: Chicago musician/rap artist Rhymefest and Egyptian writer/artist/curator Dr. Omar Kholief who both stick out in my mind. They both discuss how poetry, free speech, and the ability to speak out or share your words can be stifled and or exalted in different but similar ways. In both of their communities, warfare and economic/political strife find people struggling and sometimes dying to share their words. Poetry and rap can illustrate the circumstances of their existence, or they can be manipulated to make their community members look worse than they are or align them with a political ideology that they nor their people don't necessarily represent. The juxtaposition rang some loud bells. Who Reads Poetry book gave me a lot to engage with, including some stellar musical experiences that I got to explore here and here. I loved all the contributions. Jia Tolentino shared some beautiful words in her contribution that I felt illustrated my feelings surrounding poetry: “Poetry taught me how to write everything but poetry. Poetry teaches me that I basically know nothing, and that acknowledging this position is a beginning and never an end. The great thing is not having a mind. From a point of nothingness, the world starts to sparkle. It becomes declarable. It brings you those fleeting sensations that are worth sitting on, punching around, forming into ideas that may not be correct, necessarily, but will have some gravity, maybe even feel new.” Excerpt From Who Reads Poetry, by Fred Sasaki This material may be protected by copyright. Who Reads Poetry is a work I'll come back to, an instant fave, and a bomb National Poetry Month read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sylvester

    Who does read poetry? How do they find anything good - or that they like? Why do they like it? What difference does it make? Not everyone who contributed to this book had much to say, but many did, and it was interesting to have a broad swath of people from different walks of life talk about what place poetry has in their lives. Incidentally, a friend showed me a podcast with a similar theme: https://www.thepoetryexchange.co.uk/listen

  3. 4 out of 5

    Antonia

    Who reads poetry, you ask? Activists, actors, anthropologists, artists, attorneys, a Burundi parliamentarian, cartoonists, comic, graphic, and photo artists, hip-hop artists, a cellist, an ecologist, an economist (who pioneered “haiku economics”), film critics, an ironworker, a museum curator, journalists and reporters (TV, radio, newspapers), a midwife, musicians and music critics, a neurosurgeon, ministers, philosophers, psychiatrists, a retired Army lieutenant general, a retired professional Who reads poetry, you ask? Activists, actors, anthropologists, artists, attorneys, a Burundi parliamentarian, cartoonists, comic, graphic, and photo artists, hip-hop artists, a cellist, an ecologist, an economist (who pioneered “haiku economics”), film critics, an ironworker, a museum curator, journalists and reporters (TV, radio, newspapers), a midwife, musicians and music critics, a neurosurgeon, ministers, philosophers, psychiatrists, a retired Army lieutenant general, a retired professional baseball player, singers and songwriters, writers and editors. Note that the title of this book does not end with a question mark. This is a delightful and varied compendium that brings together views on poetry from people in a wide range of professions that are not poetry (though many of the contributors are writers). The essays are reprinted from a feature in Poetry magazine called “The View from Here,” which was launched by Christian Wiman in 2005. It’s a collection of perspectives that gives me hope — because the people I hope to reach through my own poems are not other poets. Says Don Share in his Introduction: What seems clear . . . is that people from walks of life outside the profession of poetry are, as Wiman pointedly observed, “perfectly qualified to judge anything now being written. And what seems even clearer is that, if you’re a poet writing today, these are the readers you want.” Definitely the readers I want! I liked best the essays that focused on the writers' opinions of how poems work, what poetry has meant to them, how they discovered the value of poetry, how they’ve used it in their work in other walks of life (psychiatry, economics). Also, I was delighted to find an essay by Christopher Hitchens (who died in 2011) among the selections. I’ve missed his voice. The Poetry Foundation Podcast called “Poetry Off the Shelf” aired an episode about this book on September 26, 2017: Who Reads Poetry. A few of my favorite quotes: Ian McGilchrist: Poetry can occur anywhere there are words, even in daily life. Lili Taylor: Poetry has helped me become more versed, so to speak, in the language of emotion. Richard Rapport: While my reading of prose has helped me understand much that I didn’t know, poetry is a way to better see the things I might know deep down but cannot (or will not) say. Poems create empathy. Roxanne Gay: Reading poetry is such a thrill that I often feel like I am getting away with something just to be able to indulge in reading it. That thrill shows me how poetry is in everything. Xeni Jardin: My creative mentor, the poet who adopted me as a teen and taught me all I know about writing, tells me this: “Poetry is not adornment. Poetry is the truth.” Poetry is, you might say, the command-line prompt of the human operating system, a stream of characters that calls forth action, that elicits response.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Iva

    Essays by a wide variety of people. And they each come to poetry from many directions. My favorite was by William James Lennox Jr., a retired US Army three star general who teaches poetry at West Point. And Mary Schmich, a Chicago Tribune columnist who writes clever poems about world affairs. (And they are really clever.) Some spoke about teachers, others about specific poets, but it was a wonderful surprise to discover this book in the new book section of the library

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Cowie

    This is a terrific book showcasing a diverse group of people who explain the importance and relevance of poetry in their lives. Filled with many moving examples, your TBR pile will expand as you make your way through these pages. Thank you University of Chicago Press for the copy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Logan

    To answer the title’s implied question, I don’t really read poetry (other than The Road Not Taken which I probably misinterpret). Who Reads Poetry is published by the University of Chicago Press and is therefore heavily influenced by the Chicago/midwestern community. It includes essays from authors of various walks of life and professions (writers, military, economists, et al.), including some celebrities (Christopher Hitchens, Roger Ebert, Roxane Gay). Probably the most memorable segment for me To answer the title’s implied question, I don’t really read poetry (other than The Road Not Taken which I probably misinterpret). Who Reads Poetry is published by the University of Chicago Press and is therefore heavily influenced by the Chicago/midwestern community. It includes essays from authors of various walks of life and professions (writers, military, economists, et al.), including some celebrities (Christopher Hitchens, Roger Ebert, Roxane Gay). Probably the most memorable segment for me was when Jeffrey Brown of PBS Newshour asked two cadets in military school about why poetry is taught to soldiers. Cadet One: “Poetry is directly related to our function as a military officer because, at the bottom level, we’re all here training to take lives. And that’s a concept that you really can’t approach without art, without some sort of deeper understanding of the human condition, which is exactly what poetry is.” Cadet Two: “That’s a clumsy way to say that. We’re not here to take lives and destroy things. Perhaps those are the tools of the army and the military, but really we’re here to learn how to be leaders. And…poetry has a direct influence on how I think about leadership and how people view leadership.”

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rural Sellers

    Frankly I was rather disappointed in the book. I've vacillated between three and four stars. I enjoy reading poetry very much so I rather anticipated falling in with a familiar crowd. And in some ways I did - certainly their stories were quite similar to mine (in some cases). But the telling of their stories typically wasn't particularly inspiring or lyrical. Just familiar. That's not a bad thing, but it doesn't make for a gripping or interesting book. Frankly I was rather disappointed in the book. I've vacillated between three and four stars. I enjoy reading poetry very much so I rather anticipated falling in with a familiar crowd. And in some ways I did - certainly their stories were quite similar to mine (in some cases). But the telling of their stories typically wasn't particularly inspiring or lyrical. Just familiar. That's not a bad thing, but it doesn't make for a gripping or interesting book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    I began reading this on April first. University of Chicago was giving it away as a free ebook, so I thought I would skim through it periodically as the month went along. But, here we are on the 25th and I have pretty much only read like three of the essays. I guess I will save it for next national poetry month. haha.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lauryn

    I think the strength of this collection lies in the diversity of the people who write about why they read poetry. The short answer to the question of who reads poetry: so many people! Writers, activists, journalists, pipefitters, religious folk, military folk, etc etc. Definitely a great collection.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    If you want to read essays that expand your understanding of life and the human condition, poetry and the world and some of the writers and many cultures it offers this is a book for you. One to keep nearby if you are a writer (of any and all genres, not only poetry).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Punk

    The University of Chicago Press's free book of the month for April 2021. Can be read online, or downloaded with Adobe Digital Editions. Epub has Adobe DRM. The University of Chicago Press's free book of the month for April 2021. Can be read online, or downloaded with Adobe Digital Editions. Epub has Adobe DRM.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Don Bennie

    Fantastic read. So many interesting and unexpected perspectives and ideas on poetry that I could actually see picking up some of the works described and referred to with a very different outlook.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    Wonderful!!!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Arthur Kyriazis

    exemplary, rousing, inspirational. a wonderful gift, signed, from my amazing, incredible wife.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Waddell

    Lovely book!

  16. 5 out of 5

    gaynor

  17. 4 out of 5

    Afton Montgomery

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jo

  19. 5 out of 5

    bg

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alex Lang

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Wong

  22. 5 out of 5

    Brenden

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aseem Kaul

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Lippstreu

  25. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Yenne

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennie

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mark Mikula

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michael S. Holko

  30. 5 out of 5

    George Wallace

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