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Why is poetry so hard to sell?

by Bryony Harrison (follow)
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Question (197)      Poetry (16)     

seamus heaney, seeing things, poetry

Poetry books are a lot harder to sell than prose, so while many new authors might get their stories on the shelves of book shops, the poetry section rarely stocks anything other than the really famous poets like Shakespeare, Keats, and Seamus Heaney. Why do you think so few people buy poetry?

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In some ways it is surprising because poetry is generally shorter than fiction, meaning that it is great for reading during those in between moment - on the train, in the bath - as you can usually finish it within one sitting.

I think some people are a bit intimidated by poetry though because the language is not they way we would usually speak, and it often requires more thought in terms of interpreting what is being said. Poetry is also more abstract, and I think most people like a tangible story to follow.
Bryony, I think that poetry is like art. It means most to the poet himself/herself. It is abstract as you have pointed out. It is more difficult to understand (at least for me). Poetry has to be taken as a specialist genre for reading.
I think like most publishable work today, there is so much out there - I think the supply is greater than the demand.
by Vee
There's probably a lot of layered answers to this.

Like poetry being seen as intellectual, so you go back to the same intellectuals as the only trusted poets.
That anyone can enjoy a book (for now) but poetry is not pop-culturally positioned as 'for' anyone (as ridiculous as the idea of a medium being 'for' a person is)
That there are no popularly recognised paths for poets to gain recognition to be published like a novelist might.

It's a sad truth of poetry in the modern age that Leonard Cohen had to turn his poetry into song to sell it.
by Ben
Most people feel poetry isn't 'their' thing. A lot of poetry is so obscure it needs to have annotations from an interpreter to make sense of it - many modern poets are deliberately obscure and a few gullible people think they must be good - but the classic authors are recognised as being accessible so we do buy their work. I read a lot of local poets and many of them are amazingly good, but you only find out how good they are if you go to some of the local poetry readings - poems can come across in a far more meaningful way if they are read well. One reason why bookshops don't stock poetry is that many of the books are chapbooks and have no spines, so they are hard to put on bookshelves. Shakespeare's in Port noarlunga is one of the few bookshops that stocks poetry - the owner is a poet, so that's a good reason to do it! for a good poetry bookshop, go to Melbourne - Collected Works in Swanston St stocks them all.https://www.facebook.com/pages/Collected-Works-Bookshop/175023895845165
Melbourne is a wonderful poetry haven, with many indie authors flourishing - Koraly Dimitriadis, Ben John Smith,as an example Going to poetry readings which are held all around Melbs, every week. (and are great fun) Take your chapbooks on stage and sell when you read. I have done this and you always get punters buying your stuff. Poetry will never to everybody's taste.

In Australia - accessible poetry is surfacing everywhere (thank goodness) Many have tired of flowery poems with the overusage of words like TACITURN. Although, I enjoy many forms.

Maybe because it's BORING to the average person!

Maybe because school children didn't have good enough teachers to actually teach it!

Maybe because it's thought of as 'toffee nosed' writing.

Maybe because very few people are interested in it.

Maybe because so many people can't UNDERSTAND it, so refer second line above.

Maybe because State School educated children perceive it a subject ONLY for Private school students!

My Poetry book for Grade XII was 'The Poets' Pen'. I enjoyed the majority of poems in it. My Grade X book, I forget the name of it, but can still picture the front cover's gold/yellow picture in my 'minds eye', but I do remember it had heaps of poems about Australia, there was even one poet whose daughter was in my class!

For my reading enjoyment, I find Shakespeare's Plays each, one very l o n g poem!

P.S. Just remembered Grade X poetry book ......'Call of the Gums'! That's pretty good for 50 years' ago!
by donjo
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