Its Own World To the average reader, the proposition that poetry’s audience has declined may seem self-evident.
It is symptomatic of the art’s current isolation that within the subculture such notions are often rejected.
With an average of ten poetry students in each graduate section, these programs alone will produce about 20,000 accredited professional poets over the next decade.
From such statistics an observer might easily conclude that we live in the golden age of American poetry.
One cannot easily marshal numbers, but to any candid observer the evidence throughout the world of ideas and letters seems inescapable. There is, in fact, little coverage of poetry or poets in the general press.
From 1984 until this year the National Book Awards dropped poetry as a category. In fact, virtually no one reviews it except other poets.
Like chamber-of-commerce representatives from Parnassus, poetry boosters offer impressive recitations of the numerical growth of publications, programs, and professorships.
Given the bullish statistics on poetry’s material expansion, how does one demonstrate that its intellectual and spiritual influence has eroded?
There are now several thousand college-level jobs in teaching creative writing, and many more at the primary and secondary levels.
Congress has even instituted the position of poet laureate, as have twenty-five states.