So, who reads poetry? American military cadets, that’s who. And medical specialists. Also, songwriters, journalists, and philosophers. And don’t forget (ex-) poets, priests, and politicians (to quote Sting). But let’s get back to those military cadets. What does poetry do for them? Who Reads Poetry gives us a number of possible answers. When Jeffrey Brown, a senior correspondent for PBS’s NewsHour, asked a poetry class in West Point (the US military academy) about the link between reading poetry and becoming a military officer, one cadet answered that poetry, and art generally, is required because ‘we’re all here training to take lives’. Another argued that poetry is necessary to learning about becoming a leader. Lieutenant General William James Lennox Jr, who also has an essay in Who Reads Poetry, was once the superintendent at West Point. For him, poetry is taught there, in part, because combat leaders ‘must rely on their own morality, their own creativity, their own wits’.
David McCooey reviews 'Who Reads Poetry: 50 views from Poetry Magazine' edited by Fred Sasaki and Don Share
Who Reads Poetry: 50 views from Poetry Magazine
edited by Fred Sasaki and Don Share
University of Chicago Press (Footprint), $49.99 hb, 215 pp, 9780226504766
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David McCooey is a prize-winning poet and critic. His latest collection of poems, Outside (2011), was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards, and was a finalist for the 2012 Melbourne Prize for Literature's 'Best Writing Award'. His first collection, Blister Pack (2005), won the Mary Gilmore Award and was shortlisted for four major national literary awards. McCooey is the deputy general editor of the prize-winning Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature (2009). His album of 'poetry soundtracks', Outside Broadcast, was released in 2013 as a digital download. He is a professor of literature and writing at Deakin University in Geelong, where he lives. His forthcoming poetry collection, Star Struck, will be published in late 2016 by UWA Publishing. His website is: www.davidmccooey.com
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