Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America
Everyday Reading is the first full-length critical study of the culture surrounding American popular and commercial poetry in the twentieth century. 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 in different and complex ways. Capturing American poetry’s truly diverse forms and appeal, Chasar shows how the genre helped set the stage—before television, rock music, video games, and the Internet—for the dynamics of popular culture and mass media today.
Chasar investigates twentieth-century American poetry’s audience of millions and maps its range of aesthetics, cultural uses, relationship to canonical verse, and unexpected presence in many parts of modern life. Far from being a marginal art form read by a select group of educated individuals, poetry was part and parcel of American popular culture, spreading rapidly as the consumer economy expanded and companies such as Burma-Shave exploited the form’s profit-making potential. Poetry also offered ordinary Americans a wealth of opportunities for creative, emotional, political, and intellectual expression, whether through scrapbooking, participation in radio programs, or poetry contests. By reenvisioning the uses of twentieth-century poetry, Chasar enables a richer understanding of the innovations of modernist and avant-garde poets and the American reading public’s sophisticated powers of feeling and perception.
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