Marketing the Poet

Day 3 of Writing in Metaphor and Imagery for Book Blogger Appreciation Week

In the age of the Internet, it is no wonder that book publishers are looking to the myriad housewives, students, professionals, and other bloggers to promote their authors’ books through reviews, interviews, guest posts, and virtual book tours. The 21st century provides businesses with a unique opportunity to directly access their customers through blogs, social networks, and other means on the Internet. As a poet, I’ve thought of the Internet as a level playing field for writers, allowing poets the same access to the public as fiction and nonfiction authors.

While writers of fiction and nonfiction are familiar with marketing their own work to the masses, I’ve noticed that poets are not as comfortable publicizing their own work. However, perhaps growing up with access to the Internet has enabled me to see the potential of growing the readership base of poetry. Up until recently poetry has circulated in college and university English courses and among academics in their “ivory” towers, but more and more contemporary poetry is bleeding into general audiences from poetry slams to online journals. Despite poetry’s elitist reputation, the form continues to evolve and reach new audiences. Spoken word poets are taking their poems to the streets, local events, bars, literary festivals, and other venues, and some poets focused on the written form are submitting to online rather than print journals.

The American Academy of Poets, for example, embraces the Internet by offering audio readings and videos of poets in conversation, spotlighting different artists periodically. There also is a list of events online, and each state has its own dedicated poetry page. The academy will even send those who sign up a new poem once per day to their email. In addition to the groups online striving to widen the audience for poetry by embracing technology, poets themselves are getting into the groove. Arlene Ang is one contemporary poet using the Internet to market her work, which you can see here and here. Meanwhile, the U.S. Poet Laureate position has gained ground in the media; I didn’t start noticing the poet laureate until about 1997 when Robert Pinsky was named, but with each passing year I’ve noticed each new poet laureate take the office with greater zeal, spotlighting poetry as an art worthy of attention by general audiences. Former Poet Laureate Billy Collins and Poetry 180—a poem a day for American High Schools—aim to have one poem read in a public forum at high schools willing to participate in the program, but how the poem is applied is up to the school. Students, teachers, staff members, and others can read the poems out loud, but discussion is not necessary. According to Billy Collins, “The most important thing is that the poems be read and listened to without any academic requirements. The point is to expose students to some of the fresh voices in contemporary poetry.”

I’ve been blogging for about three years, though only for little over one year at Savvy Verse & Wit, but I am dedicated to including poetry book reviews and other items about poetry on my blog to broaden the audience for poets. The goal of the site is to incorporate poetry during National Poetry Month, which is every April, by discussing poetic forms, new poets worthy of recognition, or posting poetry book reviews. Eventually, interviews from poets could be used to highlight how poets are very similar to fiction and nonfiction writers in terms of their process and struggles to get published. Poets are down-to-earth people tackling emotions, themes, and inner and external struggles, much like prose writers. The Internet is a powerful tool that poets and writers alike must grab onto and mold to meet their purpose, exposing the widest audience possible to their art.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Contest:

Leave a comment on this post to enter to win a 1-year subscription to Poetry magazine, which has one translation issue per year, poems, and short stories. In the comments tell me one thing you love about poetry and one thing you dislike about poetry or share a couple lines from your favorite poem. Deadline is Sept. 19, Midnight EST.

Another friendly reminder about these contests:

1. Diary of an Eccentric is holding a contest for The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold and The Choice by Nicholas Sparks Deadline is Sept. 30

2. Savvy Verse & Wit is holding a contest for Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg as the first contest for Book Blogger Appreciation Week Deadline is Sept. 19

3. Savvy Verse & Wit is holding another contest for “A Coney Island of the Mind” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti as part of BBAW; Deadline is Sept. 19

3. Book Club Girl has a new contest today as well.

4. Bookish Ruth’s contest for The Sally Lockhart Mysteries by Phillip Pullman

Please also double-check the growing list of giveaways at My Friend Amy’s blog.

Deadlines for all of my BBAW contests will be Sept. 19, Midnight EST.