It's often argued that Americans are afraid of poetry; a dramatic overstatement, one things, but not without credible residue. Rather it's a matter of not many Americans, comparatively, think of poetry as a resource since we, as a culture, are not an introspective culture, but instead one that continuously looks forward to a future to be created.
Poetry, so far as the general reader is concerned, is a matter of one being alone with their thoughts and structuring their experience in a narrative form, a narrative that not only chronicles events along a time line, but also the nuance of experience, the fleeting sensation of something changing in their psyche. This requires making the language do extraordinary things to accommodate an uncommon interpretation of experience, and Americans, a people reared on the ideology of what can be done in the face of adversity, have no expansive desire to do something so impractical. Language is a thing meant to help us solve material problems, to achieve material goals, and poetry, a strange extension of linguistic twists and shadings, does nothing to put food on the table, put money in the bank, to further the quest to cure an endless variety of incurable diseases.
"Poetry makes nothing happen" is what W.H.Auden wrote as of way of saying that verse is a means of expression that resists attempts to use in the the gaining of power, wealth, prestige. It's use is more intangible and essential and yet it resists the conventional definitions of use. The poem from which the quote is derived reads thusly, partially :
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executivesWould never want to tamper, flows on southFrom ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,A way of happening, a mouth.
This is a war poem, of a kind, and was written at time when much of the avant gard, left and right, were obsessed with how art in all mediums could be used to forcefully change the world and how powerfully, how rapidly we could change the way populations can have the way they see and think and act in the world change permanently. But Auden declares that the poet and his work survives the agendas and the manifestos and that it while it makes nothing happen, it is something that happens, as an inevitable event of nature.Poetry is immaterial to purpose, function, policy; the absence of larger audiences for poetry isn't about fear from a perception that it's a mode of expression that is the least useful among several the lot of us might select on a given day. There are those of us who would argue that poetry's lack of identifiable utility is exactly what attracts us to the form--I happen to think that , like Wilde, that all art is quite useless in practical application (save for the fact that I believe humans crave beauty in form and in expression) and adhere to Harold Bloom's running definition of what literature , in general, avails the reader : to paraphrase, literature (poetry) helps us think about ourselves. Americans , I think it's safe to say in the broadest sense, have no real desire to reside individually and psychically work their way to an "aha" experience with poetry as a conduit. We do think about ourselves, but more in terms of accumulation rather than an inner equilibrium. The measure of a man is his wallet, not the subtlety of his thoughts, and this a form of fearlessness that borders on insanity.