Read what David Groff discusses on Poets.org: “The Peril of the Poetry Reading: The Page Versus Performance”
Are we “mistaking the poetry reading for the reading of poetry.”
“Sure, public poetry events bring people together, creating a community for the most intimidating of the verbal arts. They allow us to encounter poets we admire or have never heard of, connecting the printed poem with the voice and mien of its creator, and adding new dimensions of meaning to the experience the page provides. Poetry readings allow a poet to test how new work reverberates, or doesn’t. And of course, for the poetry business itself, poetry readings are a hopeful sign for an art that seems paradoxically both more marginalized and more popular, especially in a culture that gauges the worth of an art by the size of its box office, where few large publishers issue books by poets, where poetry-reviewing has mostly vanished from mainstream media, and where according to the NEA fewer and fewer people read books of any kind.” —David Groff
In this age of marketing on the internet, any average user trying to do marketing has lots of questions. Questions, especially since there is no real measure of what seems at any moment to be working. It is the problem of making sure the public sees your message—times one hundred. There is, at best, competition, that on that day or hour there is another event which may draw the same people. On the Web doesn’t this issue multiply? Granted the opportunity seems greater, still there are more questions, even doubts. The next question is “why” do people do what they do, why do they read what they read?
What is the market for poetry books? Is there a shortage of poets?
The question comes up in my office, “Who reads poetry or literature. Who buys poetry, and how do we find them, first of all, and then, how to engage in a civil exchange or announcement that might lead to an interest?” The creative coaches will tell you that engaging with your audience in a meaningful way, and listen to them.
So I did some searching about poetry reading and buyers, and found some interesting things which I shall share with you here.
There are very interesting sites. How many know about the woman’s list-serve at USM, right here in Maine; or The Poetry Archive dedicated to recordings of numerous poets, preserving the audio of those you may never otherwise be able to hear; or a Christian Writers site; and the new and unusual marketing of a book by telephone readings. Another suggestion that makes a lot of sense is to combine reading and signing with other types of performance like music. At an event that more can attract more than the seasoned reading goer.
The worst feeling is one of futility. Why are we doing this? When most everyone is working at their own thing, their body of work, independent publishers are doing things like putting out magazines and books of other people’s works, thereby actively creating a culture of literature and information in a community. I’ll bet for the most part it’s not for the money, but for some sense of creativity, either design or editing, putting out a product that they care about, encouraging reading and in the process increasing literacy.
We need to understand the world of literature as it is beyond the publishing corporations (according to Thompson in Merchants of Culture, there were approximately 34 imprints; some organized by divisions; under Random House in the US alone at the time he first wrote the book, 2010) and rather in the hands of the hundreds of independent publishers of literary books and magazines across the country.
I don’t need to tell you that having a big budget to pay trained Web masters to do the work is the cure for most ills. Those of us who go it alone or with some help, and we are grateful for any because one person cannot be everything to everybody, find the risks can come at any moment of a tired day. Saying something wrong or stupid in the eyes of the “other”, the misinterpretation of an email can lead to complete silence, or even worse, laughter. (There is nothing worse for a positive outlook than the feeling that comes from being laughed at.) Some of the best magazines and presses are operated by one or two individuals. They know the meaning of multitasking when going from design, to fulfillment, to blogging, all in one day. The internet?—since it appears obvious that when someone with lots of followers/ friends/ and group members, likes or shares something, there is potential that many more people will see the item/ the article—we need to at least give our support in that way . . . but still, until something turns into a sale, and even then, what is the indication that these are actually related. How do we even know that a paid upgrade for an item listing on a seller site or portfolio site, on the grounds that it will get greater exposure, is going to work? There are multiple theories for the success of, say advertising, floating around out there, now more than ever. We need to “Like” what we read, read books, and buy books.