Random Thoughts

Poetry Does Not Sell!

I simply don't understand the maxim: poetry does not sell, hence Indian publishers shy way form publishing poetry, saying that there is no 'market' there.

Yes I have to admit with a sigh, that publishing is a business, and the publisher has to cover the market costs of printing and distribution. And yes, no one would like to buy a book of poems, especially of an unknown author, and keep it shining on the shelf for posterity to decree, what a learned man or woman he was. True, also that there could be much 'better' books to buy ranging from classics and philosophy to pot boilers, those that sell.

But, to write away the art of poetry, by simply stating that it does not sell is to decry this art form in the vilest and crassest manner. It also abominates the very form of literature, which has been as old as man himself, whether one thinks of the Vedas or the Bible, the latter having an unique pastiche of both prose and verse.

Jayanta Mahapatra the noted poet used to publish an excellent literary journal for decades, 'Chandrabhaga' it contained both poetry and prose, non fictional as well as fictional, but he being a poet the 'emphasis' was on poetry, including poetry written in the vernacular languages of the country, in English translations. He could not sustain that journal, because of paucity of financial resources, and lack of continued subscription by readers.

Fiction sells they say. Yes Indian novelists writing in English are having a heyday now, but apart from the greats, are we sure of the quality of all of them? Many writers who started off by writing poetry have now turned to fiction, as if there is a magic mantra there, and also because it 'sells'? The market realities of literature is an ominous trend, if we are to vicariously prosper vanity or self publishing. Here publishers do not mind, if the hapless poet shelves out some money, just to see his book in print.

I remember once an Assamese poet after winning the Sahitya Akademi award remarked that he was happy that at last he was getting some money, considering the fact that he had spent so much in the past - to publish his books! Of course poetry sells, my dear friends who utter this vacuously and lamentably, please discover that every second love lorn person is writing poetry, or making effete attempts to do so! And publishers I bet you go by brand names as well. After all it is the market which is branded with the name.

If you have a well known novelist or writer, chancing his arm with poetry, you will surely publish him, or her, it is the name which 'sells' isn't it? Not Poetry?!
Read also: Pedagogy and Poetry ...


More by :  Ananya S Guha

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Views: 3505      Comments: 1

Comment Picking up from my definition of poetry as 'a special utterance', whatever is in poetic form reveals the personal opinion of the writer in a way no other form of writing does. First, the prospect of buying a book of poems is one of a completely biased point of view - the author's - that actually aspires to be your own. Second, a book of poetry is the easiest to review - all it takes is a glimpse at one or two poems to appreciate or depreciate the whole book in prospect. These two factors perhaps explain the selling difficulty of books of poetry.

Actually, since you mention it, the writing of poetry by authors of novels (and other subjects) is a rarity, and in a mutual sense, because good poets rarely write novels. I put this down to the focus of poetry on self-revelation as a form of universal self-revelation; whereas novelists, and other writers, reveal objectivity in their characters and times, virtually concealing themselves.

14-Aug-2012 10:45 AM

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