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The National Endowment for the Arts Finds that Poetry Reading is on the Rise

Last week, the National Endowment for the Arts released information confirming that poetry reading is on the rise. Specifically, according to the NEA’s Director of Research and Analysis Sunil Iyengar:

  • 28 million U.S. adults read poetry not required for work or school, the highest rate on record over a 15-year period of conducting the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts.
  • Young adults are the fastest growing group of poetry readers among all age groups. Among 18-24-year-olds, the poetry-reading rate has doubled, to 17.5 percent in 2017, up from 8.7 percent in 2012.
  • African Americans, Asian Americans, and other non-white, non-Hispanic groups now read poetry at the highest rates.

These findings were released in a post on the NEA’s Art Works blog. The data is part of the latest Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, a research partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Census Bureau.

As we celebrate our 10th Anniversary, Split This Rock is proud of our contribution to increasing the audience for poetry in our community. Each year, we engage with thousands of people through readings, open mics, workshops, poetry contests, youth slam festivals, school-based activities, campaigns to integrate poetry into movements for social change, and the award-winning DC Youth Slam Team. Biennially, our cornerstone program, Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, now attracts approximately 700 poets, activists, and dreamers to our nation's capital. Over 550,000 people have visited our online social justice poetry database, The Quarry, since it's creation in 2013. Through a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion, all Split This Rock programs aim to celebrate and present poets and poetry that represent the true diversity of our cultures and communities.

Additionally, Split This Rock is part of a national Poetry Coalition, an alliance of more than 20 organizations in 11 cities dedicated to working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds. For the past two years, members of the Poetry Coalition have conducted programming on shared themes of social importance including poetry and migration, and poetry and the body.

We are energized by this new data from the National Endowment for the Arts and the ways in which Split This Rock can, along with our fellow Poetry Coalition members, continue expanding poetry's influence and reach.

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