Synopses & Reviews
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 lad with a candy exoskeleton on the outside of her crepe-paper dress." In another, anthropologist Helen Fisher turns to 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.
"Sasaki and Share—art director and editor-in-chief, respectively, for Poetry magazine—have compiled 50 ways of looking at poetry from past contributions to the magazine. The contributors, many of whom aren’t poets themselves, include visual artists, singer-songwriters, doctors, a cartoonist, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, a philosopher, and a former Major League Baseball player. Many address the question of what characterizes the best poetry, arriving at conclusions such as that poetry is most effective when “stretching past the limit of words” or when filling the “gap between reason and emotion.” The diversity of the authors results in an exceptionally broad range of topics and perspectives. For example, actor Alfred Molina explores the similarities between poetry and the stage, music journalist Rob Kenner explores the discipline’s relationship to hip-hop and rap music, and novelist Aleksandar Hemon explores how poetry can capture the reality of war. Many of the contributors also tell intimate stories about poetry’s place in their personal lives. Sasaki and Share have chosen these pieces well. Misses are few and far between, and the successes offer wisdom, humor, and intellectual vigor. This is a rewarding effort and at its conclusion, readers may find themselves inspired to reach for their favorite poet’s works." Publisher's Weekly
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.