“For me, the glut isn’t a glut so much as a fundamental condition of poetry in the long twentieth century … Realizing that means reassessing our histories of American poetry, the maps and guidebooks we produce about it, and the way it gets measured and recorded.”—Mike Chasar
In her article, Poetry on the Brink: Reinventing the Lyric, noted critic Marjorie Perloff argued that “the sheer number of poets now plying their craft inevitably ensures moderation and safety”. Stephen Burt also worried about there just being too much poetry and poetry criticism being published in print and online making it impossible to keep up.
In what the Poetry Foundation’s blog Harriet called a “(wonderfully) long conversation,” Jed Rasula and Mike Chasar, author of Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America , discuss the poetry glut and question to what extent it really poses a problem for poetry for The Boston Review. (On his own blog, Poetry and Popular Culture, Mike Chasar summarizes some of the questions considered in his conversation with Rasula.)
While Chasar does recognize the proliferation of poetry in recent years citing such statistics as 100,000 poems being published last year and 20,000 poets graduating from MFA programs, he also sees poetry as being part of the culture, in varied ways, throughout the past century. Chasar writes:
So I agree there’s an astonishing amount of poetry in circulation, and it’s partly astonishing because the high numbers don’t square with the various “death of poetry” arguments that get rehearsed every other decade or so. That said, I think there’s been a poetry glut for a long time and that at certain times—probably during periods when people are gaining more access to new media or communication technologies … just as they are now—it comes into view more strikingly than at others. My gut reaction (you could maybe call it my glut reaction) is to say that questions like “Is it a glut?” or “Is it a problem?” aren’t nearly as interesting as questions like “Who is it a problem for?” and “Why do those people think it’s a problem?” …
For me, the glut isn’t a glut so much as a fundamental condition of poetry in the long twentieth century, a period when—thanks in part to the emergence and maturation of the culture industries, the development of mass media as well as personal communication technologies, and the expansion of consumer capitalism and the consumer marketplace—more poetry was written, distributed, circulated, and consumed than at any other time in history. Realizing that means reassessing our histories of American poetry, the maps and guidebooks we produce about it, and the way it gets measured and recorded.