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.