Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Numbers III

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #143
     Blogger Nic Sebastian echoes a question:  "Isn’t attempting to monetize poetry a lose-lose proposition for both poetry and poets?"

     We won't quibble long about the figure of 200,000 poets in the United States--the real number is closer to 2,000,000--beyond noting that the closer the respondent is to The Ivory Tower the lower the estimate.¹  This doesn't matter much because I can accept the premise:  the number of poetry readers is, at most, equal to the number of producers.  (Mind you, it's probably equally true that the number of rock albums being sold is equal to the number of air guitarists out there.  I wonder what percentage of those 186,440,000 prose readers are novelists in their dreams, at least.  110%?  150%?)

          In fact, if we consider why people (i.e. poets) read poetry, the news becomes even more depressing.  Are poets reading as fans, for pleasure?  Or are they practitioners interested only in who and what is being published where?²  Whatever percentage of "poetry consumers" (tanpc) fall into the latter category should be removed or, at least, asterisked when we get down to discussing those who enjoy poetry for its intrinsic value.  Let's be generous and split the difference:  half of poets read contemporary poetry for the same reasons they read prose or watch movies.

     Earl the Squirrel's Rule #138

     That isn't much to work with.  Half a reader per writer.  Let's not forget about fragmentation.  Academics don't write for onliners;  onliners don't write for slammers; and, slammers don't write for academics.  But wait!  It gets much worse!  Apparently, we should eliminate all genres other than pontifications and memes that will "shift [the readers'] view of a situation, elevate their perspective, help them grapple with a challenge that before seemed unmanageable."  To hell with romantic, dramatic, narrative, tragic or comedic stories;  only self-help tomes should be put forward.  Oh, and as a poet, "I don’t want to calculate my words or their presentation..."  Heaven forfend that we think before we write!  Especially if we are going to be [gasp!] paid for it!

     Of course, none of this has anything to do with attempts to monetize poetry.  Granted, when Nobody Reads Poetry it goes without saying no one is going to buy it.  The problem is that removing cost doesn't help much.  We literally can't give this stuff away.

     Is there any chance of success here?


     Just do the opposite of what all the failures are doing.


¹ -  And the closer to home the definition roosts.  In the blog cited Ron Silliman and Seth Abramson discuss numbers based on those "graduated from MFA or Ph.D. in Creative Writing programs."  Apparently, no one else need apply--not even English graduates!  Can you say "slam"?  "Online critical forum"?  "Vanity venue"?  "Self-publishing"?  "Indies"?  The roughly 99% of poets who aren't MFA, Creative Writing or English graduates?

² - We'd cite those accessing a source only because their friend or relative is being published there.  We'd also exclude from our count books purchased by students as part of a compulsory reading list.

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