Tuesday, July 2, 2013
5 Reasons so many contemporary poets remain largely unknown
Often when I write about accomplished poets, people ask me why they hadn't heard much about those writers prior to my mentioning them. The questioners don't necessarily deny the accomplishments of the poets, just genuinely curious why they haven't heard more about them.
Given my experiences studying the careers of poets and searching for more information about poets over the last several years, I have become to come to more explanations for why contemporary poets and new volumes of poetry remain difficult, especially for non-poets.
What follows are 5, (just 5 for now) of the many reasons why poets remain largely unknown to potential readers:
Small presses -- The majority of poets are published by small presses -- presses with big hearts but not the financial resources and big-media connections to publicize new volumes to the degrees necessary to make the works known by mass, non-poetry reading audiences.
Lack of news -- Discussions of poets, volumes of poetry, and types of poems rarely appear in the news, and thus contemporary poets do not become part of contemporary discussions on the regular.
Outside the popular culture loop -- Although we are often surrounded by forms of verse (song lyrics, excerpts of famous lines from poems in movies, etc.), most contemporary poets and contemporary poetry as a genre remain largely outside major media channels and modes of pop culture.
Not enough conversation -- While there are large numbers of published poets, there are hardly enough conversations, reviews, blog entries, scholarly articles, and any other presentations about poetry.
Awards -- Actually, awards for poetry have increased over the last 25 years, but the increasing number of poets makes it less likely for individual poets with limited institutional affiliations to win. Without winning a major award (or two or three), poets are less likely the recipients of other awards, and they tend to receive fewer invitations as speakers on college campuses and at other events.
Does the Pulitzer award for poetry favor "younger" black poets?