Mike Chasar

Mike Chasar

Education

  • Ph.D., University of Iowa
  • M.A., Miami University
  • B.A., Valparaiso University

About Me

For as long as I can remember, I've loved the puns, cheesy inspirational verses, dirty limericks, song lyrics, language games, and advertising jingles of popular culture. For almost as long, I've loved reading, studying, reciting, printing, binding and collecting canonical or "literary" poetry as well, and my teaching and scholarly interests emerge from this double affection for so-called highbrow and lowbrow poetries. I believe that every instance of poetic language use—from Emily Dickinson to Snoop Doggy Doggerel—is a complicated mixture of social, cultural, and aesthetic forces that merits our close attention and, if we're lucky, our admiration.

Teaching Interests

I teach American literature and creative writing with a special focus on poetry from the U.S. Civil War to the present. I subscribe to Walt Whitman's notion that "To have great heroic poetry we need great readers—a heroic appetite and audience," and so my writing classes are great reading classes, and my reading classes do heroic writing. I find it illuminating and challenging to mix texts that have various aesthetic, cultural, and discursive registers so that, for example, we might read a combination of great poems, popular poems, song lyrics, and advertising jingles in a single semester in order to better understand the many ways that poetry shapes and is shaped by our encounters with the world around us. In my classes, we approach poetry not only as a means  of self-expression, but as a powerful communicative and analytical tool as well.

Research Interests

Everyday ReadingI study the culture of American popular poetry and especially how ordinary readers use that poetry in their lives. ("What poems do you have on your Facebook profile?" he asks.) I am author of Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America, a full-length study published by Columbia University Press in 2012, and coeditor of Poetry after Cultural Studies, a collection of eight essays published by the University of Iowa Press in 2011. Nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, Everyday Reading examines how Americans collected and maintained poetry scrapbooks, how they listened to poetry on old-time radio shows, how they encountered it on billboards advertising shaving cream, and how canonical writers engaged and were engaged by the culture of popular poetry more regularly than scholars have assumed. The research and writing for this book were made possible by the support of many individuals and institutions including the National Endowment for the Humanities. My next book, a sort of sequel to Everyday Reading, is tentatively titled Beyond the Book: Poetry and New Media in Modern America.

Poetry after Cultural StudiesAs a creative component of this research, I've also been experimenting with writing in popular literary forms. For a number of years, I wrote what I described as "good bad poetry" about current events for newspaper Op-Ed pages. (Back in the day, newspapers printed topical poems on a regular basis, but that practice tailed off after World War II; I was curious, then, to see what poetry would bring to public discussions about local and national politics in similar venues today.) More recently, I've been risking my soul and public reputation by writing advertising poetry for an insurance company, trying my hand at the verse forms that people composed to pitch all sorts of products and services in the late nineteenth and early-mid twentieth centuries (see my articles "The Business of Rhyming" and "American Advertising: A Poem for Every Product" listed below). You can keep up with how other people and I are thinking about these and many other intersections of poetry and popular culture at my blog "Poetry & Popular Culture."

Publications

Books

Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America (New York: Columbia UP, 2012).

Poetry after Cultural Studies, ed. and intr. with Heidi R. Bean (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2011).

Articles/Essays

"Popular Culture and Women's Poetry" in The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century American Women's Poetry, ed. Linda Kinnahan (UK: Cambridge UP, forthcoming 2015).

"From Vagabond to Visiting Poet: Vachel Lindsay and the Institutionalization of American Poetry" in After The Program Era, ed. Loren Glass (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, forthcoming).

Rev. of My Silver Planet: A Secret History of Poetry and Kitsch, by Daniel Tiffany, Poetry (forthcoming).

Rev. of Poetry and Its Others: News, Prayer, Song, and the Dialogue of Genres, by Jahan Ramazani, Comparative Literature (forthcoming).

"Orality, Literacy, and the Memorized Poem," Poetry (forthcoming 2014).

"Interview with Mike Chasar, Author of Everyday Reading," Critical Margins 16 July 2014.

"Glut Reactions: The Demographics of American Poetry" (with Jed Rasula), Boston Review 28 November 2012.

"Material Concerns: Incidental Poetry, Popular Culture, and Ordinary Readers in Modern America" in The Oxford Handbook of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, ed. Cary Nelson (New York: Oxford UP, 2012).

"American Advertising: A Poem for Every Product" (with Cary Nelson), in U.S. Popular Print Culture 1860-1920, ed. Christine Bold (New York: Oxford UP, 2012).

Rev. of Advertising and Satirical Culture in the Romantic Period, by John Strachan, Studies in Romanticism 49.3 (Fall 2010).

"The Business of Rhyming: Burma-Shave Poetry and Popular Culture," PMLA 125.1 (January/February 2010).

"Writing Good Bad Poetry," Poets & Writers Magazine (November/December 2008).

"Remembering Paul Engle," The Writer's Chronicle 41.2 (October/November 2008).

"The Sounds of Black Laughter and the Harlem Renaissance: Claude McKay, Sterling Brown, Langston Hughes," American Literature 80.1 (March 2008).

"Conches on Christmas," Poetry (September 2005).

Recent Courses

Fall 2014

        On Sabbatical

Spring 2014

        Eng 135     Introduction to Creative Writing

        Eng 332     Intermediate Poetry Writing

        Eng 361     Modern Poetry and Poetics: Texts & Contexts

Fall 2013

        College Colloquium (Walt Whitman)

        Hum 497   Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass  

Spring 2013

        Eng 135     Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry

        Eng 498     Senior Seminar in Creative Writing

Fall 2012

        ENG 116     50 Great American Poems

        ENG 203     Fundamentals of Creative Writing

        ENG 361     Modern Poetry and Poetics: Texts & Contexts  

Spring 2012

ENG 135     Introduction to Creative Writing: Poetry

ENG 202     Introduction to Literary Theory

ENG 441     Poetry of the Pacific Northwest
                  Course Syllabus (pdf)

Fall 2011

College Colloquium (The Graphic Novel)    

ENG 332     Intermediate Poetry Writing

Spring 2011

On Research Leave

Fall 2010

ENG 361     Modern Poetry and Poetics: African American Poetry

ENG 201     Close Reading

ENG 135     Introduction to Creative Writing

Spring 2010

ENG 441     Poetry of the Pacific Northwest

ENG 332     Imaginative Writing II (Poetry)

ENG 201     Close Reading

Fall 2009

ENG 354     The Modern Novel: Chicago

ENG 135     Introduction to Creative Writing

ENG 116     Literature of the Great Depression

Interesting Links

Academy of American Poets

America Singing: Nineteenth-Century Song Sheets

American Verse Project

Antislavery Poetry

Associated Writing Programs

British Poetry 1780-1910

Carriers' Addresses at Brown U.

Cliche Finder

Contemporary American Poetry Archive

Contemporary Poetry Review

Desperately Seeking Salem

Dickinson Electronic Archive

Early Broadside Ballad Archive

Electronic Poetry Center

First World War Digital Poetry Archive

FiveOhThree Magazine

Harriet: The Blog

Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies "poetries" issue

Library of Congress Poetry Resources

Modern American Poetry Site

Modern Language Association

Modernist Studies Association

NEA Report "Reading at Risk"

Penn Sound

Poetess Archive

Poetry & Popular Culture

Poetry Daily

Poetry Foundation Report "Poetry in America"

Poetry Society of America

Ron Silliman's Blog

Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing

UbuWeb

Walt Whitman Archive

W.B. Yeats on Popular Poetry

William Blake Archive