American Opinions of Poetry

The well-known Poetry Foundation commissioned the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago to conduct a survey on the general opinion possessed by Americans on poetry and its place in their lives.  The study findings are rather long but some of the more interesting key discoveries are posted on the Poetry Foundation website.  Here’s what they’ve posted:

  • 64 percent of adult readers think that people should read more poetry.
  • Poetry is appreciated by a broad and demographically diverse portion of society; individuals from all walks of life and education levels read and enjoy poetry.
  • Poetry readers tend to be sociable and lead active lives. They listen to music, read a variety of genres, use the Internet, attend cultural events, volunteer, and socialize with friends and family at significantly higher rates than do non-poetry readers.
  • Most poetry readers (80 percent) first encounter poetry as children, at home or in school. 77 percent of all readers were read nursery rhymes as children; 45 percent of current poetry readers also had other forms of poetry read to them as children.
  • Poetry readers believe that poetry provides insights into the world around them, keeps the mind sharp, helps them understand themselves and others, and provides comfort and solace.
  • Readers turn to a variety of sources to find poetry: single-author books (77 percent), anthologies (58 percent), television (48 percent), radio (41 percent), the Internet (36 percent), poetry readings (29 percent), poetry magazines (20 percent), reviews/commentaries about poetry (19 percent), poetry slams (12 percent).
  • When people encounter poetry in unexpected places such as newspapers, general-interest magazines, and public events, even non-poetry readers read or listen to it: 99 percent of all adult readers indicated that they have incidentally encountered poetry, and 81 percent reported that they read or listened to the poem when they encountered it.
  • Approximately two-thirds of the respondents thought that both poets and poetry readers are people who are generally respected; 70 percent would like to meet poets, and 66 percent would like to meet poetry readers.
  • Among the most frequently cited reasons that people don’t read poetry are lack of time, loss of interest, lack of access, and the perception that poetry is difficult and irrelevant.
  • Former poetry readers, while crediting poetry with many of the same rewards as do current readers, do so at much lower rates and are more apt to say that they personally received no benefits from reading poetry. Of those former readers who did find poetry rewarding, most championed poetry for its entertainment value and were less inclined to note intellectual or psychological benefits.
  • While more than 80 percent of former poetry readers find poetry difficult to understand, only 2 percent of respondents don’t read poetry because they feel it is “too hard.”
  • More than half of all current poetry readers read or listen to contemporary poetry, that is poetry written since 1945. About one-third restrict their involvement to contemporary poetry, and about one-quarter read or listen to both contemporary poetry and the classics.

Definitely some interesting findings.  The report can be both read and downloaded as a PDF HERE.

Looks like poetry’s not going anywhere any time soon.  Cheers to that.

 

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