When Donald Hall, poet laureate of the United States, tells audiences that poetry is not an unpopular art form, people listen intently.
Some do so because of his title and impressive dossier, which includes two Guggenheim fellowships, the National Book Critics Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and 15 published volumes of verse. Others, however, listen because they understand that resurgence is a theme for Hall, both in his poetry and his life.
"A book of poems by a well-known poet used to get a print run of 1,000 copies, and you'd be lucky if you sold out," says Mr. Hall. "Now more publishers are printing 8,000 to 10,000 copies for a first edition." He also notes that many literary magazines are being published, and when you add their modest circulations together, the result is a large readership.
Hall believes this upward trend has been fueled by readings – at colleges, literary festivals, and other venues – which have become increasingly popular since the 1950s. "The poetry reading used to be a rare event," he explains. "Even famous poets such as Marianne Moore and William Carlos Williams were rarely asked to read their poems." But hearing a poem read aloud "can be like reading it many times. You have a helping hand to get you into the poem. You have an actual body, an actual voice, and a series of gestures."
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