So i gave my family their poetry books at christmas. My father seemed uncertain, but kept his game-face on. i suggested poetry might make good bathroom reading (watch out Uncle John, poetry's in the throne room now!). My youngest sister made a remark about how she doesn't like poetry (she has previously called poetry 'frivolous') but at least pretended interest when i explained how Poets and Killers was composed using lines from advertising. My mother said she would definitely read her copy of Poets and Killers, and my middle sister seemed enthusiastic about [sic].
My mother seemed particularly pleased when she noticed that her book was signed. My father was a disappointed that his was not also signed. Whoops. And with every book I was asked "Is this one of your profs? Do you know this writer?" No. Yes.
It did seem to make a difference that i could talk a little bit about the writers: my folks were definitely more interested in who the writers were than what project the books were undertaking. It let my parents get a little glimpse into this mysterious world of the poet/academic, and suddenly the books are more meaningful because of a personal connection - a low degree of separation between the poet and the reader. i think it reduces the factor of intimidation (sort of "well if my daughter knows this person, it can't be so foreign and incomprehensible").
But it's nearly March, and as far as i know, the books are unread. My mother has, however, looked through an issue of filling Station magazine. "I didn't understand it at all" she said.
i'm working on it.