Sunday, 18 July 2021

Do poets read enough poetry...?

When encountering yet another post on social media from a poetry journal who've been inundated with over a thousand poems in their latest submissions window, my first reaction is inevitably to reflect on the long-standing feeling that everyone seems to want to be published in magazines that they don't support via subscriptions or even one-off purchases. Of course, the most common and (to a certain extent) justified kick-back is cost: it's impossible for poets to buy copies of all the journals where they submit.

However, on this occasion, my thought processes went a step further: the majority of the most outstanding poets in the U.K. are barely shifting 200 copies of their well-reviewed collections. In many cases, these books were published by excellent outfits that boast decent distribution networks. In other words, if we look beyond the thorny question of the circulation of poetry journals, what about the absurdly low sales of collections and pamphlets? 

And a final doubt: leaving aside the colossal elephant in the room ( i.e. how to find readers who aren't poets), do poets themselves read enough poetry, especially work that's outside the comfort zone of what their workshop leaders show them or what's shared by their friends on social media...? 


  1. Yes, indeed. Why so few people who don't write poetry read it should really be more fully considered. Thanks for your piece here, Matthew.

  2. Thanks for this Matthew. It chimes with another question that's been bugging me a while, about how to balance a commitment to 'new' poetry with the fact there's so much around already, so much so I've written something by way of reply:

    When I first started trying to get published, I was frustrated by the pressure to subscribe to magazines beforehand. Now I would think very hard before submitting to somewhere I wasn't subscribing to. But I submit less, and have more money.