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The Plural of UsPoetry and Community in Auden and Others$
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Bonnie Costello

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691172811

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691172811.001.0001

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Poet and Audience

Poet and Audience

(p.122) 6 Poet and Audience
The Plural of Us

Bonnie Costello

Princeton University Press

Live performers often remark on the double nature of the audience relationship, intimate and collective. Such an intimate relationship is commonly associated with the experience of poetry. But poets can also create the opposite effect; more in line with the concert hall, they make us feel, even in the privacy of reading, that we are part of a large congregation or mass. What is the special social presence of poetic audience, and how is it different from or a model for other kinds of human community? What various relations does a poet establish or imagine with an audience when she says “we”? How is this related to the classic tension between poetry and rhetoric? This chapter argues that while we tend to think of poetry as intimate address, poets do conceptualize large assembled audiences and often draw on metaphors of performance to create a feeling of gathering, even as they retain the sense of intimate address.

Keywords:   poems, poetry, audience relationship, performers, poetic audience

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