Skip to main content

Who Reads Poetry

50 Views from “Poetry” Magazine

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 lady with a candy exoskeleton on the outside of her crepe-paper dress.” In another, anthropologist Helen Fisher turns to poetry 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.

240 pages | 2 halftones, 1 map | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Literature and Literary Criticism: American and Canadian Literature


"May I recommend Who Reads Poetry. It's an anthology of columns published for a decade in Poetry magazine. Economists, musicians, philo­sophers, journalists, musicians, doctors, soldiers, an iron worker and an anthropologist explain why poetry matters to them. Their response­s are funny, moving and inspiring."

The Australian

"Poetry is most often defended by poets, so this anthology is a welcome addition to the chorus from outside voices."

The Millions, Must-Read Poetry Books

"This collection appeals to the habitual reader of poetry and to the reader who has been wanting to read more poetry. We find that people like ourselves and people unlike ourselves all agree on one thing: Poetry has a lot to offer, and is not only relevant, but necessary.

MInneapolis Star Tribune

Table of Contents

Don Share  Introduction
Richard Rapport  It Is Nothing like That
Hank Willis Thomas  Better Speak
Lili Taylor  Out There
Helen Fisher  The Madness of the Gods
Natalie Y. Moore  Love Jones
Roger Ebert  All My Heart for Speech
Archie Rand  They Could Croon
Leopold Froehlich  One-Track Mind
Naomi Beckwith  The Necessary Fluster
Mary Schmich  Poetry, Daily
Jia Tolentino  Knowing Nothing
Iain McGilchrist  Four Walls
Roxane Gay  A Place for Poetry
Lt. Gen. William James Lennox Jr.  Romance and Reality
Stephen T. Ziliak  Haiku Economics
Nalini Nadkarni  Green I Love You Green
Tracey Johnstone  The True Nature
Alex Ross  The Idea of Order
Fernando Perez  Para Rumbiar
Nicholas Photinos  Lucid, Inescapable Rhythms
Alfred Molina  “Two Loves I Have . . .”
Momus  Written in Rock Candy
Will Oldham  To Hell with Drawers
Rhymefest  My Life Is a Poem
Jolie Holland  Loosening the Grip
Rob Kenner  Word’s Worth
Neko Case  My Flaming Hamster Wheel of Panic about Publicly Discussing Poetry in This Respected Forum
Sally Timms  Poetry Out Loud
Anders Nilsen  Poetry Is Useless
Lynda Barry  Poetry Is a Dumb- Ass Spider
Kay Redfield Jamison  Wild Unrest
Richard Rorty  The Fire of Life
Matt Fitzgerald  Gloriously Undone
Jerry Boyle  Debris
Josh Warn  On the Road with Wallace and Wystan
Xeni Jardin  Everything Moves to Live
Amy Frykholm  Earthward
Daniel Handler  Happy, Snappy, Sappy
Michaelanne Petrella  Like, a Noticeable Amount of Pee
Ai Weiwei  On Poetry
Christopher Hitchens  Imperfect Recall
Etienne Ndayishimiye  Dust and Stones
Mariame Kaba  Imagining Freedom
Aleksandar Hemon  Sarajevo Blues
Jeffrey Brown  Reporting Poetry
Rachel Cohen  Like Soldiers Marching
Pankaj Mishra  Rama Stores
Omar Kholeif  To Speak with Many Tongues at Once
Chris Hedges  How with This Rage

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press