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Dead Popular Poetry Society News
To be more precise, John
, large audiences for poetry on the printed page have gone on to other media—a phenomena that surfaced long before the Internet. The last poet who enjoyed a popular audience in the U.S. was Rod McKuen
(unjustly reviled by critics inside and outside of less-than gratefully dead academe), who was in fact wildly popular. Before him, Robert Frost
, who still sells books. The 19th Century had its Longfellows and Whittiers.
Where have the audiences gone? Poet Dana Gioia made the case
not long before he was chosen to head the National Endowment for the Arts that Rap and Cowboy Poetry, each with huge audiences, are poetry. One can pic nits whether most song lyrics are just verse and not poetry, but a Cole Porter or Bob Dylan lyric, say, can bear repeated reading with or without music. Some lyrics even compel repeated listening.
And, I would suggest that one reason many still read the Psalms and the Song of Solomon is that their poetics help drive home the message.
Do I think much of Rap or of people who enjoy it? Of course not. But that’s beside the point.