Magazine article American Journalism Review

Spreading the Muse

Magazine article American Journalism Review

Spreading the Muse

Article excerpt

Newspapers that want to add a little more soul to their pages might look in the heart of Nebraska. There, a small-town man with a knack for words has an easy answer: poetry.

Ted Kooser, poet laureate of the United States and a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, launched a free poetry column at the end of March. So far, 80 papers have signed up for the column, called "American Life in Poetry." Each week Kooser, who won a Pulitzer Prize this year for his own poetry, selects a short, modern and accessible work for dissemination to the masses.

"I want poems that people might smile at and others that they'll feel moved by and so on," he says. But Kooser, whose wife is editor of the Lincoln Journal Star and whose son works at the News-Gazette in Champaign, Illinois, understands newspapers; he keeps the column six to eight inches long. "I've tried to keep this small and short so it doesn't take up too much newshole," he adds.

For editors worried that they're boring readers with too much news about government and war, poetry could be a new way to energize their content.

Papers from the Roanoke Times in Virginia to the Detroit Metro Times, an alternative weekly, are running the stanzas, couplets and verses. According to the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation, which is sponsoring the column, enrolled papers have a combined circulation that exceeds 8 million. …

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