Thursday, August 06, 2009

January's "Got poetry" campaign

(You will find this post in the comments of the blog you go to when you click on the title of this post.)

January, I'm glad you came back to this issue with some new information and some more thoughts. I think back to Edna St. Vincent Millay and her trips across the country doing readings to huge crowds and wonder where poetry has lost all the popular appeal it once so apparently enjoyed.

On the subject of self-promotion, I definitely agree with both you and Collin on this issue. Additionally, I think we must also jump on each other's bandwagon, so to speak and relentlessly promote other people's poetry that we find important to us as well.

If you look at the difference between the indie and the large publishing house, you immediately see that the latter focuses on a small number of writers and promotes them professionally. Please don’t mistake me for thinking badly of indies, I publish all of my writing there currently and am extremely grateful for their existence. What I am trying to illustrate is that about half the reading public goes to a handful of large houses and the other half goes to a group of indies that is only slightly less numerous than the readership it serves. Among the indies, the promotion ranges from none to rather professional and they don’t repeat-print works (first timers only, please) although that is beginning to change. The net result is a very diffuse and huge group of near nameless poets for whom little or inconsistent promotion is generally applied and for whom the per capita sales of each author are rather small. When compared with the big houses, we can see how effective is their concentration on a small number of name-recognition level writers and strong promotional support for each of those names.

Still, the interest in those names doesn’t seem to approach the level of popularity of Millay, Frost, and a handful like them. It seems to me that something has happened to the perception of poets as interesting, odd, exciting people worthy of, perhaps for lack of a better word, gossiping about. I guess poetry now is about ordinary, if slightly eccentric, people living ordinary lives and legendary figures of immense popular appeal are not to be found in this group anymore. Maybe I’m just trying to take a poke at a windmill here as I really can’t seem to put my finger on why poetry has slipped out of the popular view. If it was just about professional marketing, wouldn’t the big houses already be so successful that the indie market would never have even been able to assert itself? I’m obviously missing something here and would be deeply indebted if someone would be so kind as to point it out.

I hope others will have something to say about this topic and so I’m going to post it to my blog and refer them to yours where this all started. Thanks again January for continuing your discussion of this important issue.