Poetry News

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          NEW STUDY SHOWS  Poetry Foundation releases first scientific study of poetry

          in America,  finds people who read poetry lead more satisfying social lives than those

          who don't.

Chicago -- In a newly released report, "Poetry in America," the National Opinion Research

Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago presents the results of an unprecedented study

evaluating American attitudes toward poetry. Commissioned by the Poetry Foundation,

publisher of Poetry magazine and one of the largest literary organizations in the world, the

research finds that the vast majority (90 percent) of American readers highly value poetry

and believe it enriches the lives of those who read it.

"This study shows that America is more than ready to resume its love affair with poetry,"

says John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation. "It contradicts the assumption that

poetry must be a marginalized art form; on the contrary, readers believe that poetry adds

pleasure, depth, and understanding to the lives of those who read it."

For the first time, researchers gathered detailed data on who reads poetry, why they turn

to it, where they encounter it, and what types of poetry they hear and read. The research

indicates that Americans feel that poetry significantly contributes to their understanding

and appreciation of life, and that people who read poetry lead more engaged and

satisfying social lives than those who don't. In addition, fully two-thirds of respondents
believe that society would benefit if people read more poetry.

The report, which is available free of charge at www.PoetryFoundation.org, is intended

to assist educators, publishers, and arts organizations interested in building the audience

for poetry.

The research summarized in "Poetry in America" is based on interviews conducted with

more than 1,000 people nationwide beginning in the summer of 2005. The Foundation

invited representatives from publishing, teaching, libraries, and literary outreach

organizations to help design the study. The survey was conducted from a random

sample of American adults who read newspapers, magazines, and books for pleasure,

and who read primarily in English.

"'Poetry in America' will be studied for years," noted Norman Bradburn, senior fellow at

NORC. "It is a landmark study that will provide organizations concerned with the arts

and humanities, as well as the social sciences, with a wealth of data about the experience

of poetry by Americans from all walks of life."

Key members of the poetry community have praised the report. "The Poetry Foundation

has done the field a great service with this research," noted Fiona McCrae, director of

Graywolf Press, a leading publisher of contemporary poetry. "Publishers, teachers, and

librarians should all make good use of this knowledge to stimulate an even greater

engagement with poetry in the future."

Tree Swenson, executive director of the Academy of American Poets, added, "It is so

good to have a comprehensive study such as this to match against the explosive growth

that we at the Academy of American Poets have tracked over the past ten years in two

of our programs in particular: National Poetry Month and www.Poets.org."

While American readers are generally enthusiastic about poetry, the study suggests

that there is significant work to be done in broadening the audience for it. Apart

from brief, incidental encounters with poetry in public places, a relatively small

percentage of Americans actively seek it out or consistently return to it.

Although people love and value poetry, they primarily hear and read it at weddings,

funerals, and other important occasions, and buy books of poetry when they need a

meaningful gift. Those who do not read poetry cite as reasons early negative

experiences, usually in school, or lack of interest or time.

The study finds that current poetry readers tend to have had a more comprehensive

experience of poetry in the classroom and were significantly more likely to have

studied poetry at every grade level than were non-poetry readers. Considerably

more current poetry readers than non-readers engaged in reading, memorizing,

reciting, and writing poetry during their school years. These findings endorse

Poetry Out Loud, the Poetry Foundation's national recitation contest, and other

programs that extend poetry instruction at all levels.

"For the first time, organizations with a commitment to poetry can make their plans

and seek their funding on the basis of quantitative data, not just the anecdotal

impressions which, until now, have been the only information available," said

Stephen Young, program director of the Poetry Foundation. "The research identifies

what helps to make a person a lifelong poetry reader and will serve as a benchmark

against which the Poetry Foundation will measure future initiatives."

The Poetry Foundation is acting on the study's findings about the ways Americans

now read poetry--sporadically and for special occasions--and the ways they use the

Internet. The Foundation recently launched www.PoetryFoundation.org, a

comprehensive and easy-to-use archive of great classical and contemporary poetry.

The site directs visitors to poems appropriate for holidays and other occasions on

which people turn to poetry. The Web site also makes it easy to share poetry via

email, a common practice among non-readers as well as readers.

People who would not ordinarily seek out poetry do engage with it and enjoy it

when it is incorporated into activities in which they already participate, the study

shows. The Poetry Foundation will continue to develop creative media partnerships

in radio, television, print, and film in order to expose a wider audience to the

benefits of poetry, increase awareness of contemporary poetry, and expand readers'

relationships with contemporary poets.

The "Poetry in America" report was prepared by Lisa Schwartz and Norman
Bradburn at NORC.

Download the full "Poetry in America" report as a PDF from our website:

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is committed to a vigorous

presence for poetry in our culture. One of the largest literary organizations in the

world, it exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the

largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a

receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues

for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary

prizes and programs. For more information, please visit PoetryFoundation.org.


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