Fame in the poetry world has always been ephemeral. However, this shifting of trends has accelerated even more over the last few years, due to the internet in general and social media in particular. The flavour of the month has shifted to a week, day, hour and minute.
Here’s an example: back in the 1990s, Steven Blyth was a major figure in the poetry world. He was a Gregory Award winner with poems in all the top journals and a terrific first full collection, titled Baddy, which I still drop back into on a regular basis and will feature on Rogue Strands in the near future. Moreover, he also ran one of the best poetry mags around – Prop – where I discovered that there really were people writing in a similar aesthetic to myself.
Prop eventually ran out of steam, as did Blyth’s publisher, Peterloo Press. He’s since published with Shoestring and Smokestack, and continues to bring out high quality collections every few years, but he’s certainly not in fashion. Just try searching for him on Twitter, for instance.
When we’re feeling the online pressure of our peers’ relentless announcements of success after momentary success, Steven Blyth’s story is worth bearing in mind, not as an example of why it isn’t worth bothering with publication, but because he encapsulates a key reason why the opposite is true…
…thanks to his earlier books, Blyth has accumulated readers such as myself, readers who’ll keep his work alive and bring it to a new audience. If a poet garners a small band of appreciative followers, they’ve achieved something special, something they can treasure for the long haul. As is the internet’s wont, fame can do one, sharpish.