WHO CARES ABOUT POETRY? 90 PERCENT OF AMERICAN READERS, NEW STUDY SHOWS
April 11, 2006
Media Contact: Anne Halsey (312) 799.8016; firstname.lastname@example.org
WHO CARES ABOUT POETRY?
90 PERCENT OF AMERICAN READERS, 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
"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
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 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
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: