(From the Poetry Foundation) Influenced by his favorite teacher at Tufts University, poet John Holmes, Ciardi decided early in his college career to devote time to writing verse. He turned to composing juvenile poetry as a means of playing and reading with his own children. His juvenile selections were enormously successful, especially I Met a Man. Ciardi's position as a poetry critic with Saturday Review developed from his own verse publications, but he told Comer that "it was a hobby job," adding, "I think at most it earned me $4,000 a year."
Ciardi was strongly in favor of exposing poetry to mass audiences. Aware of the linguistic and allusive complexities inherent in "good" verse and acknowledging the public's general aversion to poems, he consciously attempted to address the average reader through much of his work. While not sacrificing his message for popularity and renown, Ciardi nevertheless gained a large public following. Critics acclaimed the intellectual elements in his work, and the reading public derived equal meaning and relevance from his poetry. In his preface to Dialogue with an Audience, Ciardi expressed the hope that some readers "can be brought to a more than merely general interest in poetry."