Friday, August 08, 2008

The poetry-book-buying survey

I am preparing a poetry survey related to purchases (purchases, not trades or comps or thefts) of poetry publications; that will be my next blog post. But for now, here's part of my answer to that survey: "What poetry publications have you bought recently?"

Eileen Tabios has just posted a three-question survey enquiring about the patterns & motives of people for buying — or not buying — books of poetry. The questions can be found here, Eileen's own answers & reasons behind the survey can be found at the link embedded in her statement above.

As a publisher who is quite amazed at the lack of a genuine poetry book-buying public out there, I'll be very interested in what she turns up. & yet, knowing some of my own reasons for why I buy or don't buy, I really shouldn't be amazed.

I do read a lot of poetry, partially because, as an editor, an awful lot of poetry — & a lot of awful poetry — traverses my monitor; I read a lot of stuff on blogs & e-zines; I tend to get a number of books sent to me; many of the books I would be tempted to buy are actually the books I publish. I also live in a geographically isolated place — only one bookstore which doesn't stock poetry unless it's "famous Australian" (& my thoughts on that category can be ascertained by a post not too far below this one); a substantive postal impost on anything bought on line — which tends to make for buying books on my, increasingly less frequent, trips to something that approximates a big city, the leave-home-with-an-empty-suitcase / come-back-with-an-overweight-one method. All of which means that I don't really buy much poetry, instead tend towards detective fiction with, if I'm buying on line, maybe a book, generally a selected/collected, of poetry added to my purchase.

a.) The books that I sell most of are those from poets who are young & energetic & who have the ability to self-promote, & those sell mainly at readings.

b.) There are a lot of people out there who expect to be given a copy of a book because they have a nodding acquaintance with the author & who, put out by not being considered worthy of gift, won't actually support the poet by buying a book.

c.) There are a number of sneaky people out there who write asking for copies so they can review the book, but never do. (& I'm willing to bet that if you asked a number of small press publishers who made such requests of them, the same names would continue to appear.)

d.) As Ron Silliman continues to remind us, there are an enormous number of books of poetry being published.

For the record, these are the books of poetry I've bought in the past year.

The Gary Snyder Reader
The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan
David Shapiro: New & Selected Poems
by Kirsten Kaschock
Thing of Beauty by Jackson Mac Low
These are my Rivers by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
The Age of Huts (compleat) by Ron Silliman

So please help Eileen — & every other publisher — by responding to her survey.


Blogger artandmylife said...

I once spent much of my power bill money buying a book of poetry. I have been more circumspect since then

12:01 PM  

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