Recent criticism has shown a tendency to demystify literature and distance itself from the human capacity for wonder. It has also downplayed the idea of genius, often subordinating the autonomy of the author to larger linguistic or political pressures and structures. In this essay I aim to demonstrate the continuing potency of the idea of the vates, or poet prophet, not in criticism, but in popular culture. By contrast with Plato, who thought the productions of poets and artists were merely weak copies of copied forms, Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies, and Gareth Roberts's “The Shakespeare Code” all present the composition, performance and quotation of poetry as potentially magical, creative acts with the potential to summon new worlds into existence. Through their playful engagement with the boundaries which separate fiction from reality, this world from the next, each of these three popular responses to Shakespeare's magic achieves a delicate equipoise between belief and unbelief, scepticism and wonder, which may prove more subtle and satisfying than many scholarly responses.