"Why doesn't 'culture' include 'poetry'?," asks Jonathan Mayhew, while explaining his own practice of sending academic articles on poetry to journals of cultural study, where "they will be seen by people who wouldn't normally read an article on 'poetry.'"
Noting that cultural studies focuses mostly on novels, and that "people who are (otherwise) quite well-read often confess their near total ignorance of poetry," Jonathan further asks:
When did the novel get to be so important?. . .Is it [simply] a matter of the fact that more people read novels? Or is it because novels talk about the "issues" people want to talk about, and therefore can integrated seamlessly into a certain vision of cultural studies?
Jonathan's answers to his own question are surely part of the explanation of why, where "cultural study" is concerned, the novel has gotten "to be so important," but I would add that another reason this brand of inquiry goes on "in near total ignorance of poetry" is that encountering a poem requires an initial acknowledgment of and response to the constructedness of literary works, the formal and ultimately wholly artificial quality that makes them literary to begin with and that renders poetry less than congenial to the bull-in-a-chinashop approach to "content" favored by cultural studies. In other words, poetry requires some literary sensibility on the part of the reader, and that is the one thing that has been bred out of literary "scholars" in the cultural studies camp. That is why they so readily "confess" their ignorance of (that is, contempt for) a kind of writing so "merely literary."
I would love to see fiction develop in a direction that also makes it less nutritious fodder for the "issues" people (or continue to develop in that direction--I think much of postwar experimental fiction has indeed moved fiction closer to poetry already.) A kind of fiction that foregrounds language, form, the vicissitudes of "structure," and the very processes of meaning-making and "expression" and that de-emphasizes "character" and "theme" and, indeed, "issues" would be just the thing for separating those who value literature precisely because it is merely literary (that is, verbal art) from those who glom onto it because it seems a convenient means to more conventionally "serious" ends (that is, the study of almost everything except literature itself). I'd like to see fiction become less "important," less "seamless" in its utility to cultural studies and more utterly, blessedly frivolous.