For Immediate Release

University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center To Study People's Outlook on Poetry

March 28, 2005

The nation's first scientifically based survey of people's attitudes toward poetry has been launched by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago through the sponsorship of The Poetry Foundation, Chicago.

The survey will be based on interviews with 1,000 people nationwide who will be contacted by phone beginning in June. Results of the survey are expected to be tallied by the end of the year.
"By interviewing a scientifically selected sample of the population, the survey will test the insights brought out in discussion groups at the early stages of the study. The survey may discover new and unsuspected attitudes towards poetry," said Norman Bradburn, Senior Fellow at NORC, and a member of the study's oversight committee.

The Poetry Foundation, which publishes Poetry magazine, initiated the study as part of its mission to make poetry a vigorous presence in American culture and to place exceptional poetry before the largest possible audience.

"A first step in making progress toward these goals is to determine where poetry stands in American culture today," said John Barr, president of The Poetry Foundation. "We hope this unprecedented research will have great practical value for our organization and other groups involved in promoting poetry."

The survey will assess attitudes among both poetry enthusiasts and people who do not read poetry regularly. Already, small discussions groups organized to explore the topic, as well as in-depth interviews, have provided some insights into people's feelings toward poetry.

People who read poetry regularly as well as those who don't expressed common impressions of poetry in the early interviews and discussions. They said that poetry deeply moves people, can help people understand themselves, and builds connections between people.

Both groups said the Internet can expand people's access to poetry as could increasing poetry's presence in other media, such as newspapers and magazines.

People in the discussions groups also said parents and teachers play an important role in developing an understanding of poetry. People remember parents reading or reciting poetry to them. People who developed a life-long interest in poetry mentioned having an impassioned teacher who recognized their interest and nurtured them.

People who didn't develop an interest in poetry frequently said that they couldn't relate to it as students, often because they found it difficult to understand.

Despite some negative attitudes toward poetry, people who do not read it often said they could remember times when poems touched them such as at weddings, funerals or other important occasions.

The interviews and discussion groups also revealed that non-poetry readers enjoy finding poetry in unexpected places, such as on the radio or in magazines. They also recalled seeing poetry in public places, including the "Poetry in Motion" project, which posts poetry on public transportation in Chicago and other cities.

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The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It has embarked on an ambitious plan to bring the best poetry before the largest possible audience. In the coming year, the Foundation will sponsor a recitation contest in the schools, a major new poetry website, and an unprecedented study to understand poetry's place in American culture.

Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry is the oldest monthly devoted to verse in the English-speaking world. Harriet Monroe's "Open Door" policy, set forth in Volume I of the magazine, remains the most succinct statement of Poetry's mission: to print the best poetry written today, in whatever style, genre, or approach. The magazine established its reputation early by publishing the first important poems of T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, H. D., William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, and other now-classic authors. In succeeding decades it has presented—often for the first time—works by virtually every significant poet of the 20th century.

Poetry has always been independent, unaffiliated with any institution or university—or with any single poetic or critical movement or aesthetic school. It continues to print the major English-speaking poets, while presenting emerging talents, in all their variety. In recent years, more than a third of the authors published in the magazine have been young writers appearing for the first time. On average, the magazine receives over 90,000 submissions per year, from around the world.

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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