Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America
Exploring poetry scrapbooks, old-time radio show recordings, advertising verse, corporate archives, and Hallmark greeting cards, among other unconventional sources, Mike Chasar casts American poetry as an everyday phenomenon consumed and created by a vast range of readers. He shows how American poetry in the first half of the twentieth century and its reception helped set the stage for the dynamics of popular culture and mass media today.
Poetry was then part and parcel of American popular culture, spreading rapidly as the consumer economy expanded and companies exploited its profit-making potential. Poetry also offered ordinary Americans creative, emotional, political, and intellectual modes of expression, whether through scrapbooking, participation in radio programs, or poetry contests. Reenvisioning the uses of twentieth-century poetry, Chasar provides a richer understanding of the innovations of modernist and avant-garde poets and the American reading public's sophisticated powers of feeling and perception.
Mike Chasar's brilliant, witty book is the definitive guide to the growing field of American popular poetry. Empowered by prodigious research and informed by thorough knowledge of the traditional poetry canon, Chasar's five chapters take us deep into the way poetry functioned in the lives of ordinary people.
Cary Nelson, Editor of The Oxford Handbook of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry
An ambitious, serious claim on present-day literary studies, and a surprise and a delight. Mike Chasar combines the painstaking, arduous archival methods of real historians with the close analyses that we expect from literary critics, applied to verse, images, and informative prose ephemera. He persuasively links William Carlos Williams's innovations to roadside signs, the Iowa Writers' Workshop to the Hallmark card, and he may change how you see eminent writers' work. More than that, Chasar gets twenty-first-century readers to notice the uses that so many Americans, only a couple of generations ago, found for the poetry they enjoyed. Or, to take up a mode Chasar appears to be the first to analyze: THIS OLD-TIME VERSE/HAS LOTS TO SAY/IF YOU CAN READ IT/CHASAR'S WAY.
Stephen Burt, Harvard University
Chasar shows us that if we can rethink our ideas about poets and poetry, we will find that poems have always been part and parcel of modern life. This is an important--really, a necessary--book for anyone interested in modern poetics, the history of reading, and the many appearances of poetry in the era of its supposed disappearance.
Virginia Jackson, University of California, Irvine
A brilliantly written book, startling the reader with his thorough research and analysis of the evolution of poetry through the 20th and 21 centuries.
The originality of Chasar's close readings, the sheer amount of research informing each chapter, and the speculations on what can be learned from such careful analyses of popular cultural practices make Everyday Reading not so everyday and well worth reading.
Lisa M. Steinman
... Well-documented, thoughtful... The publication of Chasar's book fits our times and provokes futuristic ponderings.
Innovative, important, and constantly successful.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Poetry and Popular Culture
1. Saving Poetry
2. Invisible Audiences
3. The Business of Rhyming
4. The Spin Doctor
5. Popular Poetry and the Program Era
Epilogue: In Memoriam
Read the introduction, "Poetry and Popular Culture" (to view in full screen, click on icon in bottom right-hand corner)