Poetry Unbound: Poems and New Media from the Magic Lantern to Instagram

It’s become commonplace in contemporary culture for critics to proclaim the death of poetry. Poetry, they say, is no longer relevant to the modern world, mortally wounded by the emergence of new media technologies. In Poetry Unbound, Mike Chasar rebuts claims that poetry has become a marginal art form, exploring how it has played a vibrant and culturally significant role by adapting to and shaping new media technologies in complex, unexpected, and powerful ways.

Beginning with the magic lantern and continuing through the dominance of the internet, Chasar follows poetry’s travels off the page into new media formats, including silent film, sound film, and television. Mass and nonprint media have not stolen poetry’s audience, he contends, but have instead given people even more ways to experience poetry. Examining the use of canonical as well as religious and popular verse forms in a variety of genres, Chasar also traces how poetry has helped negotiate and legitimize the cultural status of emergent media. Ranging from Citizen Kane to Leave It to Beaver to best-selling Instapoet Rupi Kaur, this book reveals poetry’s ability to find new audiences and meanings in media forms with which it has often been thought to be incompatible. Illuminating poetry’s surprising multimedia history, Poetry Unbound offers a new paradigm for understanding poetry’s still evolving place in American culture.

Mike Chasar is associate professor of English at Willamette University. He is the author of Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America (Columbia, 2012) and the coeditor of Poetry After Cultural Studies (2011).