Do you get fed up with poets’ efforts at self-promotion? Well, you’d be in good company because many poets find doing it awkward, which perhaps explains why their efforts are often clumsy and sometimes ill-considered.
Poets these days are expected to do more than write poems. As well as doing readings, many poets are on Facebook and Twitter. They write blogs, make videos of their poems on YouTube, and post to online discussion forums. They network, make contact with festivals and reading series, and publicise their books – if they don’t, no one else is going to do it for them (well, publishers do their bit, but what they can do is limited). Stephen King and Jodi Picoult have massive publicity budgets to get their books in the public eye and shift millions of copies. That isn’t true of any poet. In among all this frenetic activity, poets must write poems. If they have a family and paid employment, the time to write poems will be further curtailed.
I don’t suppose any of this is conducive to the creation of great literature and yet, somehow, terrific poems are still being written. They’re not terribly visible though. Some of the best poetry collections I’ve read in the past few years have sold only a few hundred copies, despite all the efforts authors have put into self-publicity.
I know poetry is never going to have an audience comparable to a Stephen King novel, but it surely has a potentially larger audience than exists at present. I know some writers are almost invisible on the Internet, but they tend to be poets who have already established their reputations before the Web became the dominant force it is today. A degree of Internet self-publicity is generally necessary for a new or emerging poet, but are there less tapped ways of gaining audiences? Also, is it true that certain kinds of self-publicity are more acceptable and effective than others?
How can we make poetry more visible, without making people fed up of the self-promotion that accompanies publication of an average poetry collection?