Support Your Local Poets–Step 1


RT has a confession to make: he is feeling the pinch of this sorry economy, and, as happens as such moments, he is wishing that his poetry might produce a bit more income. Now, some societies, such as Japan and Russia, have long treasured their poets, and do what they can to honor them–sometimes, especially if they lack official sanction. We need to take a leaf from their book and support our local poets, who usually have made a ridiculously small amount of money off their work. Why? Because modern poetry has gotten a reputation for being absolutely useless. Hmmm…RT has posted on this subject before, and the reader is encouraged to consider some of the benefits he has suggested from the reading of poetry.


Here is the first and most basic step to supporting local poets:

1) Buy a book by a local poet. If you live near an independent bookstore, this is easy to do: just go to the bookstore and ask the clerk for recommendations (or at least where the poetry section is). I’ve found that almost all local bookdealers (and sometimes national chains) carry local chapbooks and small press volumes.

2) Choosing the book. The lesson that RT learned for visual art holds for poetry as well: buy what you like.

How do you judge a poetry book? By its

Materials. Shoddy book production–an unattractive or minimal cover, poor binding, and an uninspired layout and typeface–usually means poor poetry.

Shortest poem. This is usually only a few lines long and will give you a sense of the poet’s talents and themes.

First poem. Every poet knows that a volume’s opening poem had better be good. It should intrigue the reader and make him or her want to turn the page. If this poem falls short, you can bet other poems have problems.

3) Read the book. OK, despite what you might think, this is the tough part, the moment when all the little anti-poetry demons come out of the woodwork and say things like, “You should’ve spent that money on something more important!” and “Get real; poetry is boring, self-indulgent navel-staring!” And the worst part is, these demons don’t play fair; they don’t announce themselves openly, but just make sure that there’s always something else that must be done before you have earned the right to read your new book.

There are various ways of dealing with these demons: put the book on your bed in the morning, so that you must put it on the night table if you want to get to sleep. And the curious thing about poetry is, if a poem is read before we turn off the lights, it will probably influence our dreaming–and may even enrich it. A poet’s language has a way of working itself into our subconscious, waking up thoughts and feelings that have been put safely out of the way, but which may need an airing. And note: some of these neglected items may actually be quite pleasurable.

If this doesn’t work, then try taking your new poetry book to work. Read it over lunch; quote from it during the afternoon chat with your cubicle buddy; see if you can find information on the author on the internet. Or, if you feel that something is irritating about the poet’s approach, imagine rewriting one of the poems.


Really, nothing matters more to a writer than finding an audience (unless, of course, it’s seeing a little money coming in from the effort ;)), and, truth be told, many writers deserve that audience. This is doubly true of local authors–they are usually more accessible, both in terms of style and subject, than well-known poets, who often adopt complex approaches to their work. So try buying and reading a book by a local poet once a month and see what you think at the end of the year…you may have learned quite a bit about your community–and yourself.      (and RT will be taking up his own poetry challenge & reporting on each book he reads.)



Image: Top: Beatrice and Dante Contemplate the Highest Heaven; William Blake; WikiCmns; Public Domain. Bottom: Baudelaire; etching by Manet; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

  1. March 15, 2012 at 10:58 pm


  2. March 17, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    MSM: preach, preach, preach!! RT

  1. May 31, 2012 at 1:49 pm
  2. September 15, 2012 at 6:42 am
  3. December 11, 2012 at 7:51 pm

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