This blog is about poetry in Canada, a personal view on its vital signs. It is long
IF YOU HAVE NO TIME, SKIP TO MY QUESTIONS AT THE END,
but if you do read this through, I think many of you will nod your heads.
I thought it might be interesting to share some observations about poetry and publication on a website for international poets. Hopefully, it will open up a discussion and poets from around the globe will be able to report whether poetry is thriving where they live... or slowly dying.
Here in Canada, if you go to a bookstore, whether that bookstore be an independent (Bless their tenacity!) or Indigo/Chapters, the poetry section is substantially smaller than those of fiction, biographies, cooking... actually, I'd say that in most shops I frequent, the poetry section is THE smallest.
It is small because, in general, poetry is not popular. Don't boo and hiss AT me, people, boo and hiss WITH me!
When I say to the average Canadian, I just picked up a book of poems written by someone in Guelph, they stare at me. When I say that I like poetry, they stare some more. When I say I even WRITE poetry, they stop staring... lol... 'cause they are scared to look me in the eye. They think I'll start sprouting something in rhyme or find too much material behind their dark glasses.
I remember a Souper from South Africa explaining how difficult it was for her to even buy ONE book of poetry, never mind find a single resource on structure, form or device. It was eye-opening for me, since I had frequently groused about reference material in Canada.
I feel comfortable saying that most Canadian poets, even those recognized, cannot make a living off poetry. Poetry is a passion, an art that bleeds one dry in a thousand ways, but I would not classify it as a hobby, oh no, not me. I think, regardless of race, age, sex or faith, each poet would say the same thing:. Poetry is their religion, their obsession, their heartbeat, their sweat, their friend, and at times, even their fear, foe and futility.
In Canada, we are very fortunate to have an art's grant, and the majority of poetry books/magazines/literary journals are published due to these grants. In Canada, if you have published 10 poems (not self-published) the POET is eligible for a grant. This enables the POET to pursue the art, perhaps self-publish a book.
AND PUBLISHERS are also eligible for grants and subsidies. This opens their door just a tad wider. It isn't that they are less ... studious?... in their quest for the excellence. It is simply that when they find a poet that delights them, they have the funds to actually publish the book. Because, in all seriousness, it is a risk and poetry books, unless you're Atwood, are not profitable.
Okay, I'll go to my bookshelf. Join me? Just don't step on the dolly carriage or beaver-dam of crayons I've been meaning to pick up. Here. This is one I like. Walking into the Night Sky by Lyn King. Publisher Brick Books. I'll turn to the copyright page. It's right there...
We gratefully acknowledge the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program(BPIDP) and the Ontario Arts Council for their support of our publishing program.
Okay, so join me at the computer. Ignore the dust, the My Little Fricking Pony that keeps appearing on the keyboard ... gimme a second. Okay...
"Brick Books' mandate is to publish poetry of the highest quality by both new and established Canadian writers. Each book represents a full collection of one writer's work. Brick Books can only publish authors who are Canadian citizens or landed immigrants. We receive approximately 100 manuscripts for consideration every year. We publish only 7 books a year. Please note that we only read submissions between January 1 and April 30. Submissions received outside of our reading period will be returned. Our publishing schedule is filled two years in advance. Please send the full manuscript when you are submitting to Brick Books. Unfinished manuscripts are unlikely to be considered. You should be familiar with our books to see if your writing is a good fit with our publishing program. Check out our books in your local bookstore or library or browse our website. - See more at: http://www.brickbooks.ca?
7 books of poetry. That's it? And, excuse me, that's it! I have a 7% chance at acceptance? Oh, whoop-fricking-ee
Warning: here comes a strong opinion
The thing is if we keep ONLY BUYING Yeats, Frost, Auden and Shelley, guess what? The publishers will only publish Yeats, Frost, Auden and Shelley.
When we can, if we can, how we can, if we buy poetry books and magazines featuring today's poets, local poets and poets from across the globe... publishers won't be biting their nails, thinking man, this is some great stuff, but IT HAS NO MARKET.
I do try to buy the books of local poets when I can. This week I couldn't. The one I wanted was $19! And so the cycle continues... I will be asking for that book for my birthday and a few more...
Rant now finished, sorry for that
So, in Canada, poets have the option of 1) self-publishing, with or without a book grant, 2) finding a publisher who believes your work is lovely and will sell enough copies to keep them supplied in Kraft dinner and 3) Vanity Press
Vanity Press is a term coined for those who pay someone else to have their work published. Reversed thinking, huh? Ha! Some anthologies do this. World Poetry Movement has been mentioned on the internet as being Vanity Press.
Though not recognized as a legitimate publication by editors, there are times when a poet simply doesn't care and wants to see their poetry between two covers, either for themselves or to pass on to family members. Just be aware of scams.
What are the bookstores like where you live? Is the poetry section small compared to, say, science fiction or romance? About the same
What is on those poetry shelf, either at home or at the shop? Just the classics? Several contemporary books of poetry, either local poets or perhaps national icons? What about journals and magazines? One or twenty?
3. Do the publishers of poetry in your area/country/neck of the woods also receive grants or subsidies?
4 Do you believe that poetry ON A WHOLE is alive and kicking in your community (no, lol, NOT Poetrysoup, I mean the other-your community, like where you park your car) or does it seem to need cardiac resuscitation?
5 Is poetry promoted in your community? Are there avenues to hear poetry, spoken word events? Does your library have poetry contests, new material?
I think it would be interesting to hear from the poets from Australia and the Philippines, the UK and The US, France, Greece, Italy, Israel, Norway, China, Japan... and on and on and on.
Please, share... I don't mind if you go off topic, but let's keep it friendly, Please?