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Poets and Audiences: The Evolution of Poetry in America
(Released July 2012)

  by Beth Dwoskin  


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Historical Newspapers

News Articles

  1. Cin(E)-Poetry: Engaging the Digital Generation in 21st-Century Response

    Stuart, Denise H; Frey, Nancy, Voices From the Middle, 03-01-2010

    When Miss Stretchberry announces to Room 105 that they will be studying poetry, Jack, the main character of Creech's (2001) Love That Dog, reacts with resistance and declares "I don't want to," further explaining that "boys don't write poetry. Girls do." (p. 1). But as he explores many styles of poetry and makes connections to his own life, he becomes an engaged reader and writer of poetry.

    Today's students-those of the digital generation who have grown up with the ubiquitous information and communication technologies of their lives-can actively explore poetry through the multimodal approach of Cin(E)-Poetry. This approach enables students to personally and collaboratively respond to poetry through digital media and may lead to more positive attitudes about this genre.

    Jack's story paralleled that of many of my middle level teachers-in-training as they recalled their own experiences with poetry at that age. Their reviews were mixed. One admitted, "When I think about poetry, I feel confused and intimidated." Another reflected on approaches to teaching and learning poetry: "I always sat in class amazed at some of the hidden interpretations my teacher and peers would come up with. Sometimes I would go home and reread the poem using notes from class and attempt to achieve a better understanding." Another teacher offered a more positive impression: "I actually enjoy reading poems, of my choice, just for fun, not caring about the form or style or 'deep meaning' of them. I don't believe that there has to be a right or wrong interpretation of a poem." Many agreed with the statement, "I want to create a different experience for my students than I had." This is the story of my work with middle level teacher candidates to bring the experience of poetry into digital times through creative response that also encourages thoughtful interpretation and analysis. We hoped, too, to change students' attitudes about poetry.

    Reader Response and New Literacies

    While many students do report positive attitudes about poetry, they feel it is not encouraged in the classroom (Wade & Sidaway, 1990). My own students' complaints reveal that poetry is often taught with an emphasis on cognitive interpretation rather than on response (Hastings, 1997). These students shared with me how they engage in reading and writing poetry outside of the classroom, making it their own in ways that are meaningful to them. Their classroom experiences are not surprising, given the significant number of teachers who report a lack of confidence and knowledge about teaching poetry (Wade & Sidaway, 1990). And it is a fact that we teachers often fall back on what we know from our own in-school experiences. I wanted these soon-to-be teachers, members of the digital generation, to explore ways to feel confident in engaging their middle level students with poetry. One successful approach involved integrating technology with reader response...

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's eLibrary

  2. Poetry out loud

    Davison, Peter, Atlantic Monthly, The, 03-01-2002

    Poetry nowadays, with its ability to stimulate both the eye and the ear, needs to be taken in by both at the same time, whether you read it aloud to yourself or have learned to hear it as you read silently. Poetry also has a strange power to evoke persons and events lost in memory as well as to illuminate the self. The epics we know as the Iliad and the Odyssey reached their audiences-most of whom could not read but knew the Homeric legends well-through the ear, by firelight and torchlight The range of the bard's voice limited the ancient audience to the number of people who could gather round. By the time Chaucer had written The Canterbury Tales, in 1400, and T S. Eliot The Waste Land, in 1922, audiences had increased in literacy but were still restricted: before readers could share in it, Chaucer's poetry had to be copied out by scribes, Eliot's to pass through the hands of publishers and booksellers. Eventually, the poet as performer began to woo the public again. Dylan Thomas fifty years ago, drunk or sober, declaimed his poems to large crowds, which later bought his recordings to hear him again. Robert Zimmerman, perhaps in order to attract a similarly devoted public, would take the name Bob Dylan.

    Editorial writers like to claim, without a lot of evidence, that "poetry is on the move" They rejoice that Beowulf is a best seller at last Does this mean that poetry and democracy have come face to face? That poetry is no longer stuck under the thumb of the learned or even the literate? It might With recent developments in technology; with poems traveling around the world on the Internet without price, tariff, or tax; with cyber-watchers able to encounter a fresh poem every day of the year, selected from new books and magazines, at, poetry may be gaining lots of customers. Poems new to print can also be heard in their authors' voices at and other Web sites every month. Changes of fashion in poetry, shifts in its aims, may occur for a thousand reasons having to do with those who create it, but the ways in which poetry reaches its readers and hearers have little to do with the poets themselves. What has changed about poetry in our time is not the art of poetry but the technology of mediation...

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  3. Who's Afraid of Poetry?

    Spayde, Jon, Utne, 09-01-2004

    CERTAIN NATIONAL traits reveal to all the world that we're Americans. There's our compulsive informality; our odd need to start off all relationships on a first-name basis; our relentless urge for self-improvement; and-though this one may not seem as obvious as the others-our profound discomfort with poetry.

    You know what I mean, don't you? Invoke the poetical muses and an ordinary American will frown, stammer something like "I don't know much about poetry," and break off eye contact, which my shrink tells me is a sure sign of shame. At the mention of the P word, we get a nasty sense-memory of Mrs. So-and-So forcing us to read snippets of The Song of Hiawatha in 10th grade (or if we're younger and luckier, some Langsten Hughes), followed by exercises in which we were forced to identify an iamb, an anapest, and other dull flora and fauna of the land of poetry.

    And that, unless we're attracted to a creative writing program later, is about it. We're left with a sense that poetry is a subject rather than an art, an experience, or a source of pleasure. Our failure to master this subject-or even make a start toward "understanding" it-leaves us permanently embarrassed and confused. We have the vague sense that poetry is made up of the old and dull, which require footnotes-Chaucer and Milton and so on-and the newer but "difficult" (starting with T.S. Eliot), which can seem like a secret language. Very smart people at Yale have the key to it and "get it," and we don't...

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's eLibrary

Historical Newspapers
  1. AMERICAN VERSE.; Mr. Onderdonk's History, Covering 280 Years.*

    By GEORGE H. WARNER, New York Times (1857-1922). New York, N.Y.: Nov 23, 1901. pg. BR31, 1 pgs

    Abstract (Summary) THE point of view of this, the latest historian of American Poetry, may be seen in the closing chapter, when he says in effect, not to quote his exact words, that American, literature and modern democracy have developed in corresponding degrees; thet our literature reflects the national life, character, and experience as do our social customs or our material inventions.

    Original Newspaper Image (PDF)

  2. 'This Is the Beat Generation'; Despite its excesses, a contemporary insists, it is moved by a desperate craving for affirmative beliefs. 'The Beat Generation'

    By CLELLON HOLMES, New York Times (1923-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Nov 16, 1952. pg. SM10, 4 pgs

    Abstract (Summary) SEVERAL months ago, a national magazine ran a story under the heading "Youth" and the subhead "Mother Is Bugged at Me." It concerned an 18-year-old California girl who had been picked up for smoking marijuana and wanted to talk about it. While a reporter took down her ideas in the uptempo language of "tea," someone snapped a picture.

    Original Newspaper Image (PDF)

  3. It's Rhyme Time Live!; In the Avaricious World of Poetry Slams, Bards Show Their Wild Odes

    By Henry Allen, The Washington Post (1974-Current file). Washington, D.C.: Dec 21, 1992. pg. C1, 2 pgs

    Abstract (Summary) Who could have imagined anything like a poetry slam back in the 1960s when T.S. Eliot was God and Allen Ginsberg was a beat angel raging against the wasteland of American greed?

    Original Newspaper Image (PDF)

Taken from ProQuest's Historical Newspapers.


  1. From printed page to live hip hop: American poetry and politics into the 21st century

    by Dowdy, Michael, Ph.D. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2006 , 366 pages; AAT 3207310

    Abstract (Summary)
    This project identifies and explains the major rhetorical strategies American poets from Vietnam to the present use to create political poems. It argues that there are many different, though overlapping, approaches to making sociopolitically engaged poetry. Understanding political poetry as a collection of multiple rhetorical strategies moves away from identity-based and subject-based criticism. This project thus considers a number of representative poems from each strategy in order to illuminate each strategy's intricacies. Further, the contention that hip hop has the most political potential of contemporary poetries suggests convergences with strategies for making printed poetry political.

    The framework for understanding both hip hop and printed poetry is derived from theories of agency that negotiate the individual's ability to act according to her purposes in relation to the determining economic, political, and social forces that constrain action. The strategies considered thus emerge from various types of poetic agency: embodied agency, including both experiential and authoritative agency; equivocal agency, including comprehensive and particular varieties, migratory agency; and contestatory urban agency, which includes strategies indigenous to hip hop.

    Poems of embodied agency utilize the lived experiences of speaker-poets, experiences transformed through poetry but demonstrable through the body and memory. While poems of authoritative agency present individual and collective experience, they insist that they know the conditions of others and demand action from their readers. Poems of equivocal agency problematize notions of direct experience and are often nearly devoid of human presence, but replete with equivocation, irony, satire, and transpersonal experiences. The primary source of agency in poems of migratory agency is the fluid border between English- and Spanish-speaking cultures in the Americas. Their bilingual textures contest English's role as the language for poetic, social, and political expression in the United States.

    The final chapter expands the scope for contemporary American political poetry, arguing that hip hop can achieve politically what printed poetry cannot. Live hip hop shows at small clubs can create interactive, community-based, democratic spaces, and hip hop's internal debates about authenticity and agency vivify the culture, ensure its diversity, and work to uphold its endangered emphasis on collective identity and community strength.

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's Dissertations & Theses Database

  2. Postbellum American poetry and reader desire

    by Cooper, Allene, Ph.D., Arizona State University, 1991 , 220 pages; AAT 9124799

    Abstract (Summary)
    This dissertation describes the major ideas of the function of poetry advanced in the periodicals appearing in the United States during the years 1870-1885. The more than 1,000 poetry reviews used were published in sixteen journals selected to be representative of various geographical areas, religious and critical views, and audience genders. Using a reader reception methodology to look directly at the sets of assumptions about poetry revealed in the reviews, this study thus re-creates the mind set, conventions, and communities of readers of the period.

    First, the status of poetry from the perspective of journalist reviewers is examined. Believing they lived in a time between poetic epochs, many reviewers saw the first era of American poetry—an era dominated by Longfellow, Bryant, and Whittier—as coming to a close and looked in anticipation of a new poetry.

    The study reexamines attitudes toward the period's dominant poetic community—the sentimentalists. Eighteenth-century ideological convictions that the expression of emotion is morally healthy and aesthetically pleasing dominated discussions of poetry's office. Reviewers encouraged poets to form sympathetic bonds with readers and to write natural, optimistic, understandable poetry that would elevate readers and give humanity hope in the face of life's afflictions and seeming ironies.

    In addition, however, reviewers interested in fostering a trans-Atlantic cultural community applauded emulation of British precision in form, deliberate artificiality, and vers de societe humor. Art for art's sake notions encouraged aesthetic ties with musicians and painters and influenced readers and poets to value the sensuousness of self-consciously musical and picturesque verse. "Word-painting" developed in poetic forms parallelling movements such as genre art and pre-Raphaelite romanticism.

    Some reviewers defended poetry's continued existance in the face of predictions by scientists that the imagination would be supplanted by improved observation and analytic powers, and journals discouraged social realism in poetry, giving it little headway except in humorous regional dialect verse.

    This study encourages a re-vision of the influence on major nineteenth-century authors of the sentimental milieu in which they wrote and has implications for further study of the effects of sentimentalism, aestheticism, and realism on subsequent poets.

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's Dissertations & Theses Database

  3. Also in Arcadia

    by Mulvania, Andrew, Ph.D. University of Missouri - Columbia, 2005 , 90 pages; AAT 3204617

    Abstract (Summary)
    This dissertation is comprised of a book-length manuscript of original poems and a critical essay. As its title suggests, the manuscript of poems explores the multi-faceted nature of both rural life and the pastoral tradition in lyric poetry. The title originates with a painting by the 17 th century French painter Nicholas Poussin, a painting that, like the poems, offers the suggestion of violence and death in an otherwise peaceful rural landscape. The three sections of the manuscript follow the progress of a semi-autobiographical narrator from a rural childhood, through early encounters with death, to reflections on past experience and reading.

    The critical essay addresses related issues by examining the work of Robert Frost within the context of contemporary debates over the problem of audience and the literary marketplace. The first part of the essay looks at two critical perspectives on the role played by Garrison Keillor in the world of contemporary poetry through his anthology Good Poems and literary radio show, Writer's Almanac, and argues the merits of a "coterie" as compared with an "accomodationist" approach to audience. After demonstrating how debates about Keillor recapitulate Modernist debates over audience, the essay proceeds to apply similar terms of argument to a reading of Frost's poetry and poetics.

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's Dissertations & Theses Database