Poetry Unbound

Poems and New Media from the Magic Lantern to Instagram

Mike Chasar

Columbia University Press

Poetry Unbound

Pub Date: April 2020

ISBN: 9780231188951

288 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: April 2020

ISBN: 9780231188944

288 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $95.00£78.00

Pub Date: April 2020

ISBN: 9780231548083

288 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£25.00

Poetry Unbound

Poems and New Media from the Magic Lantern to Instagram

Mike Chasar

Columbia University Press

It’s become commonplace in contemporary culture for critics to proclaim the death of poetry. Poetry, they say, is no longer relevant to the modern world, mortally wounded by the emergence of new media technologies. In Poetry Unbound, Mike Chasar rebuts claims that poetry has become a marginal art form, exploring how it has played a vibrant and culturally significant role by adapting to and shaping new media technologies in complex, unexpected, and powerful ways.

Beginning with the magic lantern and continuing through the dominance of the internet, Chasar follows poetry’s travels off the page into new media formats, including silent film, sound film, and television. Mass and nonprint media have not stolen poetry’s audience, he contends, but have instead given people even more ways to experience poetry. Examining the use of canonical as well as religious and popular verse forms in a variety of genres, Chasar also traces how poetry has helped negotiate and legitimize the cultural status of emergent media. Ranging from Citizen Kane to Leave It to Beaver to best-selling Instapoet Rupi Kaur, this book reveals poetry’s ability to find new audiences and meanings in media forms with which it has often been thought to be incompatible. Illuminating poetry’s surprising multimedia history, Poetry Unbound offers a new paradigm for understanding poetry’s still evolving place in American culture.
This is a persuasive, thoroughly researched, memorable, and often delightful book. Mike Chasar has excelled in his ambitious coverage of primary sources. Moreover, this is a book that addresses questions that come up frequently in the poetry world about where and why and how "poetry matters," and about its place in the wider culture.
Poetry is more than a creature of voice, hand, and press, as Chasar shows with verve, wit, insight, and sparkling detail. The public life of poetry in the twentieth-century United States is also a secret history of multimedia. Each medium remakes poetry. And poetry, in turn, remakes the media in which we live, move, and breathe. I love this book!
By disclosing what are at once poetry’s most inscrutable and its most public aspects, Chasar reorients our understanding of poetry’s relation to the media, throwing gasoline on the fire of a question we have dodged for too long: what is a poem? The old answers to that query won’t hold up in the wake of Chasar’s attention to the vulgar afterlives of bookish things.
With Poetry Unbound, Mike Chasar secures his place as our foremost investigator of poetry as a popular practice—ordinary, ubiquitous, and, indeed, fundamental to American cultural life. Poetry is dead; long live poetry, untethered from the constraints of the printed page and in the wilds of new media.
List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments

Introduction: Poetry Unbound
1. Letters of Fire
2. Receiving Millay
3. “Overlook the Poem, but Look the Picture Over”
4. Once More into the Fray
5. I Need a Phony Poet Tonight
6. From Murder to milk and honey
Afterword

Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Mike Chasar is associate professor of English at Willamette University. He is the author of Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America (Columbia, 2012) and the coeditor of Poetry After Cultural Studies (2011).