Everyday Reading

Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America

Mike Chasar

Columbia University Press

Everyday Reading

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Pub Date: November 2012

ISBN: 9780231158657

336 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $34.00£29.00

Pub Date: November 2012

ISBN: 9780231158640

336 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£75.00

Pub Date: November 2012

ISBN: 9780231530774

336 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $33.99£29.00

Everyday Reading

Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America

Mike Chasar

Columbia University Press

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.

Chasar's innovative and engaging study provocatively expands the archive for twentieth-century American poetry. His original research provides important documentary evidence of how poetry was shaped for use in everyday practice and how experimental writing effectively drew on that energy. He convincingly shows that American poetry in the opening decades of the twentieth century circulated among a number of different readers to a remarkable degree and left its traces in surprising areas.

Edward Brunner, author of Cold War Poetry

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.

Sheila Erwin, Portland Book Review

Highly recommended.


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, The Journal of American History

... Well-documented, thoughtful... The publication of Chasar's book fits our times and provokes futuristic ponderings.


Innovative, important, and constantly successful.

David Levine, College Literature

The lyric spring will never cease creating an emotional pressure, sought after by every searching consciousness--this is what Mike Chasar... has shown in his book Everyday Reading.

Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie
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)

Web Features:

About the Author

Mike Chasar is an assistant professor of English at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. He is the coeditor of Poetry After Cultural Studies and maintains the blog Poetry & Popular Culture at www.mikechasar.blogspot.com.