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.
About the Author
Fred Sasaki edits the “View From Here” and is art director for Poetry magazine. He is also a gallery curator for the Poetry Foundation.
Don Share became editor of Poetry in 2013. He is co-editor of The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
"May I recommend Who Reads Poetry. It's an anthology of columns published for a decade in Poetry magazine. Economists, musicians, philosophers, journalists, musicians, doctors, soldiers, an iron worker and an anthropologist explain why poetry matters to them. Their responses are funny, moving and inspiring."
"Poetry is most often defended by poets, so this anthology is a welcome addition to the chorus from outside voices."
"This collection appeals to the habitual reader of poetry and to the reader who has been wanting to read more poetry. We find that people like ourselves and people unlike ourselves all agree on one thing: Poetry has a lot to offer, and is not only relevant, but necessary.