I'm quite dizzy with anticipation about the AWP Conference. One of my goals is to glean as much insight on what's going on within the poetry industry. We never talk about poetry as a business or an industry, but AWP is a good place to have those conversations.
In trying to be an advocate for my book, I've been thinking long and hard about this huge disconnect I see between the number of poets writing today vs. book sales. I can't tell if we're part of a dying art or experiencing a revival. I mean, the number of creative writing programs has exploded during the past 30 years. There are more ways to get our work out there than ever before: more small presses, contests, journals, Web zines, community projects, spoken word venues, open mics, and blogs. Even state and city poet laureateships are on the rise, for better or worse. So why aren't we selling more books? Why are we still this low-profit (practically no-profit) industry? And please tell me where are all the women poets?
I've always believed that the pobiz sustains itself because the poetry readers are its writers, so it will never go away but never grow. Doesn't matter how many Pulitzers a poet wins or how many genius grants are given, we just haven't figured out a way to get our books into mainstream channels. I'm waiting for that high tide to raise all boats. If there are success stories, we don't hear about them--we're terrible about sharing knowledge within the community.
I really started to go off on this post but deleted most of it because, really, I don't have any answers. And anytime I start talking about the inequities in poetry, the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
This AWP Conference is the largest, and the first time it's sold out with 7,500 people attending—with an ungodly amount of off-site events open to the public. Hope you'll come back later in the week to this blog for photos and posts from the conference.
And, if you send a question I'll try to get you an answer.