Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why is poetry reading down?

Just as I started having epiphanies about literary journals, and just as I started blogging that for the first time in my adult life I was even reading new poetry on purpose (in contrast to it being assigned in a class), the NEA releases a new report saying poetry readership is at a 16-year low.

In a way this isn't surprising. Two of the key aspects that have tended historically to keep me away from contemporary poetry are those that also probably make me a cavewoman on the subject: (1) it doesn't usually rhyme and most of it is in free or blank verse (I love rhyme, meter and rules); and (2) it's often written as a word puzzle where the author knows the meaning, and the reader/listener is supposed to figure it out. That's rewarding for many, but I get tired at the end of a long work day, and so prefer things I can understand. Enter fiction, exit poetry.

However, to give poetry a better shake, I have been regally impressed with the work I've been reading in Ploughshares, The New England Review, The Georgia Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, etc. New and different journals came in today's mail, so I'll post soon about them as well. In other words, I may not be much of a poetry reader overall, but I've been gratified with the job the journal editors have done of finding words that are worth the work.

My latest theory has been that the literary journals will protect and even save fiction. To that I would now also add that they may end up being the salvation of poetry as well. All hail journals. If you haven't done so this week, subscribe to one! ;-)

(Image above from TattoosOne)

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