Skip to Content

Paying poets

12 December 2016

Poetry is not often the focus of attention, but this week we've chosen to feature two links to substantial articles which look at the state of poetry and how poets can be supported, from different sides of the Atlantic. Both are worth reading by anyone who is concerned about the state of the poetry world.

How Do We Pay the Poets? is from an American perspective, suggesting that some kind of subsidy is required to give poets the opportunity to concentrate on writing, at a time when it is difficult to make it pay or to sustain a poetry-writing career through poetry alone.

Public Poetry takes a British point of view and looks more closely at the poetry publishing ecosystem, concluding, amongst other things, that the problem is that people don't buy enough poetry books to sustain the poets. The (anonymous) author of this article argues for a ‘poetry without limits' and is keen to foster a more experimental approach.

But most poets I know make their living through teaching, mostly teaching creative writing, which they tend to be pretty good at because writing poetry forces you to concentrate on words and how you are expressing yourself.

But it's also true that, at a time when poetry events proliferate and more and more writers are focusing on promoting their own poetry, readers and particularly book-buyers seem to be falling away. And, like any other writers, poets need audiences.

This seems like a good place to end with a plug for the T S Eliot Prize Readings, the UK's biggest annual poetry event, in the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday 15th January. Anyone who likes poetry and can get to London should head for this amazing event. All ten poets shortlisted for the Prize have accepted the organisers' invitation to read and it will be a fantastic opportunity to hear some of the best new poetry.