Posted onJul 21 2014
In the Opinion Pages of the New York Times on July 20, 2014, seven poets were asked to respond to the question, "Does poetry matter?"
Perhaps no other art form is asked to defend its value, impact, relevance, and existence as often as poetry. Through the centuries poets have explained how poetry connects us to ourselves. With a mastery of language and its possibilities, poets elevate the material of everyday communication to art that requires reflection and contemplation, and ultimately elucidates our location in the world.
As the poet Muriel Rukeyser once wrote, "If there were no poetry on any day in the world, poetry would be invented that day. For there would be an intolerable hunger."
At the Academy of American Poets it's clear to us that while this may elude some, we're actually having a poetry boom. Not only is poetry alive in the United States, many millions of people are reading and sharing poems online. Poetry may be the art most suited for mobile technology. And, hundreds of thousands of people are attending and participating in poetry readings, workshops, conferences, slams, and festivals each year.
We have rounded up some quantitative examples to demonstrate how poetry matters in the United States:
- 1,000,000+ people in the United States read poems at Poets.org each year.
- 365,000 students participated in the 2014 poetry memorization and recitation contest, Poetry Out Loud, which is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.
- 160,000+ poetry fans currently follow poetsorg.tumblr.com.
- 140,000 individuals have attended the Dodge Poetry Festival, held in even-numbered years, since it launched in 1986.
- 93,000+ readers currently subscribe to Poem-a-Day.
- 26,000+ people have viewed videos of poets on the Poets.org YouTube channel in the past six months (January - June 2014).
- 8,000+ people are dues-paying members of the Academy of American Poets.
- 2,900 new poetry books and poetry-related texts published in 2013 were featured in Poets House’s annual Showcase.
- 1,000+ poets apply to the National Endowment for the Arts for fellowship support.
- 931 poetry journals are actively publishing poems.
- 855 nonprofit organizations that present or support poetry are tracked by Guidestar.
- 278 small poetry presses are actively publishing books of poems.
- 260+ African American poets apply each year to attend Cave Canem’s retreat.
- 230+ people attended a marathon reading of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems at the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s on June 11, 2014.
- 224 conferences and residencies offer poetry programs.
- 221 graduate writing programs in poetry are attended by thousands of students.
- 200+ poems have been displayed in New York City subway cars since 1992, as part of the Poetry Society of America’s Poetry in Motion programs, and have been read by millions of commuters.
- 100 poetry venues and sites regularly host poetry slams.
- 35+ cities across the United States have a local Poet Laureate position. This number has grown rapidly in the past five years.