I think the argument has to be made with a lot more subtlety and historical precision than telling me that I'm simply "wrong." The middle-class popularity of Tennyson is a unique historical fact, not an indication of the eternal popularity of poetry in all places and eras. You have to look at literacy rates, changing historical conditions, and, yes, even the rise of modern mass media. Byron was a celebrity in his day; in fact that one of the origins of the modern celebrity culture. Why did this not happen before in the same way? Pope had the first poetry best-seller by selling subscriptions to his translations of Homer. Dryden did not have the same audience. Courtly poetry has existed in many societies, not just in the 16th century. What was the literacy rate in Heian Japan? Mass literacy is a modern phenomenon. I'm sure John Ashbery has more readers now than Dryden did in his day. Poets cannot re-create the same historical conditions as existed in Victorian England by sheer force of will, and those that try are not guaranteed that readers will follow them: how can you compete with a diet book without putting your poetry on a starvation diet? On the other hand, people never stop buying Howl.