Thursday, July 21, 2011

Black Poetry published by Norton and Company

We have a disproportionate number of volumes of poetry in our collection published by Norton and Company. (The same can be said of books in our collection published by Graywolf, Knopf, and Third World Press). We hadn't realized it when we started collecting, but it turns out that Norton is well-represented among the books we have.

Our collection has 104 volumes of poetry published between 2000 and 2011, and the following 8 were published by Norton:

• Ai. Dread: Poems. 2003.
• Ai. No Surrender: Poems. 2010.
• Dove, Rita. American Smooth: Poems. 2004.
• Dove, Rita. Sonata Mulattica. 2009.
• Jackson, Major. Hoops: Poems. 2007.
• Jackson, Major. Holding Company. 2010.
• Jordan, A. Van. M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A. 2004.
• Jordan, A. Van. Quantum Lyrics: Poems. 2007.

It's difficult, I would imagine, to get a deal with a big-time publishing operation like Norton. But it seems that once a company supports a poet, it can be crucial for getting the writer's work out and keeping it in the world. Dove and the late Ai have published with Norton for more than a decade now.  

Knopf has a similar long-running relationship with Kevin Young, and it's likely Graywolf will maintain one with Elizabeth Alexander.

The aforementioned books by Ai, Dove, Jackson, and Jordan appeared in hardcover and paperback, one indication about the high level of support that Norton could provide when publishing those poets. Norton also tends to arrange for quite a bit of coverage for their poets, at least in the context of poetry publishing at least. The books by Dove and Ai were reviewed in high profile publishing venues, and their was extensive coverage of Jackson and his volume when it was released.

Now that I think about it, A. Van Jordan's book M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A got some play as well. His book was also award-winning, which says much about his talents as a poet. But publishers, no doubt, are active advocates and players in the processes of ensuring that their authors are in the running for major awards.

I teach literature, so I'm aware of Norton's larger presence in my field. Usually, I come across references to their historical texts or their anthologies. It's only been the last 10 or so years that I became more aware of their involvement with contemporary poets.

About 10 years ago, I attended a reading where Ai was one of the featured poets. She mentioned in passing that she was published by Norton and suggested that sales were going well. In retrospect, it was a rare thing to hear: a poet mentioning that her sales were turning a fairly large profit.

No comments: