ACT reading practice test 41

DIRECTIONS: Each passage is followed by several questions. After reading a passage, choose the best answer to each question and fill in the corresponding oval on your answer document. You may refer to the passages as often as necessary.


This passage is adapted from the essay "Can Poetry Matter" by Dana Gioia (© 1991 by Dana Gioia).

American poetry now belongs to a subculture. No longer part of the mainstream of artistic and intellectual life, it has become the specialized occupation of a relatively small and isolated group. Little of the frenetic

5 activity it generates ever reaches outside that closed group. As a class poets are not without cultural status. Like priests in a town of agnostics, they still command a certain residual prestige. But as individual artists they are almost invisible.

10 What makes the situation of contemporary poets particularly surprising is that it comes at a moment of unprecedented expansion for the art. There have never before been so many new books of poetry published, so many anthologies or literary magazines. Never has it

15 been so easy to earn a living as a poet. There are now several thousand college-level jobs in teaching creative writing, and many more at the primary and secondary levels. One also finds a complex network of public subvention for poets, funded by federal, state, and local

20 agencies, augmented by private support in the form of foundation fellowships, prizes, and subsidized retreats. There has also never before been so much published criticism about contemporary poetry; it fills dozens of literary newsletters and scholarly journals.

25 The proliferation of new poetry and poetry programs is astounding by any historical measure. Just under a thousand new collections of verse are published each year, in addition to a myriad of new poems printed in magazines both small and large. No one knows how many

30 poetry readings take place each year, but surely the total must run into the tens of thousands. And there are now about 200 graduate creative-writing programs in the United States, and more than a thousand undergraduate ones. With an average of ten poetry students in each graduate

35 section, these programs alone will produce about 20,000 accredited professional poets over the next decade. From such statistics an observer might easily conclude that we live in the golden age of American poetry.

But the poetry boom has been a distressingly

40 confined phenomenon. Decades of public and private funding have created a large professional class for the production and reception of new poetry comprising legions of teachers, graduate students, editors, publishers, and administrators. Based mostly in universities,

45 these groups have gradually become the primary audience for contemporary verse.

Consequently, the energy of American poetry, which was once directed outward, is now increasingly focused inward. Reputations are made and rewards distributed

50 within the poetry subculture. A "famous" poet now means someone famous only to other poets. But there are enough poets to make that local fame relatively meaningful. Not long ago, "only poets read poetry" was meant as damning criticism. Now it is a proven marketing strategy.

55 Over the past half century, as American poetry's specialist audience has steadily expanded, its general readership has declined. Moreover, the engines that have driven poetry's institutional success-the explosion of academic writing programs, the proliferation of subsidized

60 magazines and presses, the emergence of a creative-writing career track, and the migration of American literary culture to the university-have unwittingly contributed to its disappearance from public view.

To the average reader, the proposition that poetry's

65 audience has declined may seem self-evident. It is symptomatic of the art's current isolation that within the subculture such notions are often rejected. Poetry boosters offer impressive recitations of the numerical growth of publications, programs, and professorships. Given the

70 bullish statistics on poetry's material expansion, how does one demonstrate that its intellectual and spiritual influence has eroded One cannot easily marshal numbers, but to any candid observer the evidence throughout the world of ideas and letters seems inescapable.

75 One can see a microcosm of poetry's current position by studying its coverage in The New York Times. Virtually never reviewed in the daily edition, new poetry is intermittently discussed in the Sunday Book Review, but almost always in group reviews where three books

80 are briefly considered together. Whereas a new novel or biography is reviewed on or around its publication date, a new collection by an important poet might wait up to a year for a notice. Or it might never be reviewed at all.

Poetry reviewing is no better anywhere else, and

80 generally it is much worse. The New York Times only reflects the opinion that although there is a great deal of poetry around, none of it matters very much to readers, publishers, or advertisers-to anyone, that is, except other poets. For most newspapers and magazines, poetry has become

90 a literary commodity intended less to be read than to be noted with approval. Most editors run poems and poetry reviews the way a prosperous Montana rancher might keep a few buffalo around-not to eat the endangered creatures but to display them for tradition's sake.

1. Which of the following quotations best expresses the main idea of the piece?

A. As a class poets are not without cultural status. (line 6)
B. Never has it been so easy to earn a living as a poet. (lines 14-15)
C. From such statistics an observer might easily conclude that we live in the golden age of American poetry. (lines 37-38)
D. Consequently, the energy of American poetry, which was once directed outward, is now increasingly focused inward. (lines 47-49)

2. It can most reasonably be inferred that the narrator makes mention of all the energy and institutions devoted to poetry in order to:

F. heighten the irony of the fact that no one reads it except other poets.
G. prevent accusations that he is arguing for increased government funding.
H. prove that all the alarmism is unwarranted.
J. establish that poetry could only have advanced to this degree in a capitalist society.

3. It can reasonably be inferred that the writer's biggest disagreement is with the:

A. accredited professional poets in line 36.
B. average reader in line 64.
C. poetry boosters in line 67.
D. editors of The New York Times.

4. The writer's statement in lines 57-63 most nearly means that he feels poetry:

F. has become too mechanical.
G. has alienated itself from the people.
H. is the domain of the overeducated.
J. requires far too much funding to be useful.

5. As it is used in line 8, the word residual most nearly means:

A. phony.
B. obligatory.
C. comical.
D. leftover.

6. As it is used in line 54, the phrase proven marketing strategy most nearly means:

F. something poets have accepted and allowed to influence their writing.
G. a way to make money that many poets have discovered.
H. something that is unnecessarily pitting poets against one another.
J. the best way the author can think of to promote poetry to a general readership.

7. The writer implies that those operating within the machinery of academia:

A. have deliberately caused poetry's decline.
B. are in denial about poetry's decline.
C. are employing outdated methods of bringing poetry to the people.
D. do not trust the people to appreciate poetry.

8. The metaphor in lines 91-94 is intended to support the idea that many editors view poetry as something that:

F. needs to be preserved as a link to America's literary past.
G. cannot be interfered with, since so few people write it anymore.
H. lends an air of authenticity by its presence, but is practically useless.
J. will be stronger as an industry in a decade's time than it is now.

9. When the writer states "Never has it been so easy to earn a living as a poet" (lines 14-15), he most likely means a living that would take the form of:

A. living off of royalties.
B. writing far more criticism than poetry.
C. making money off of other poets.
D. using poetry as a springboard to a professorship.

10. That narrator implies that poetry has suffered because the work many contemporary poets produce is motivated by a desire for:

F. money.
G. professional advancement.
H. fame.
J. shock value.