Can Peanut Farmers Save Poetry Too?

If you follow book blogs like I follow book blogs, you will have noticed that several have put up “Best Lists” of 2010.  I grew a little sheepish reading the lists.  Confession time: I only finished one book that was published this year: Cronin’s The Passage.  I’m still working on Skippy Dies. 

Then I read a guest post on Rachelle Gardner’s blog by Marcus Brotherton on what the publishing industry can learn from nut farmers.  His basic premise is that if every writer, publisher, editor, agent, etc bought even one book a month, the resulting sales would be enough of an uptick to help save the publishing industry.

Given that most of the books that I buy are used and, for the most part, in the public domain, his argument gave me food for thought.  He’s got a point.

Let me extend his argument a bit.

Helen Vendler just published a new book titled Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries.  She has the academic book formula down pat.  Her books tend to be a combination of anthology and criticism, making them perfect for classroom use.  I have a feeling that her book will sell well amongst teachers and fans of Dickinson.  But will it be a New York Times bestseller?  Eh, probably not.

That’s because poetry doesn’t sell well.  This to me seems absolutely crazy.  How can a generation that grew up reading Howl in high school and and listening to emo music on their iPods not read poetry?  Is it because they grew up hating it in school?  Because they were told that they weren’t smart or sophisticated or sassy enough to understand or appreciate it?

Moreover, where did all Byrons go? 

I’m being a little hypocritical.  The last book of poetry I bought by a contemporary poet was Jewel’s Night Without Armor.

Still, I think if we literary types apply Brotherton’s call to arms to poetry, we could make a HUGE impact on poetry sales. 

What say you?  A book of poetry a month?  a semester? a year?

Let’s pull poetry out of the classroom and into the coffeehouse where it belongs.


One thought on “Can Peanut Farmers Save Poetry Too?

  1. Neurotic Workaholic says:

    A lot of my students say they don't read poetry because they "don't get it", but once they do they often end up liking it. It's often hard to get them to read anything, though, because this generation is so visual. On the other hand, they do like reading text messages and stuff that's printed online…

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