3/26/08

Poetry—A Devalued Art Form

What is the place of poetry in the LDS market? Is there any hope of selling a poetry collection to any publisher? If so, what kind of poetry would be of interest?

Poetry is a hard sell in any market, unless your last name happens to be Dickinson or Frost or . . . Even Carol Lynn Pearson, the LDS poet, doesn't sell much poetry.

The only way you're going to sell a book of poetry to an LDS publisher is if it's a gift book, a children's picture book, or part of an anthology (like Especially for Mormons)—but even those are tough sells.

I'd suggest sending your poems to magazines. The Ensign and New Era publish poems. There are also lots of Christian magazines looking for poetry. Check the 2008 Writer's Market.

5 comments:

William Morris said...

Signature stills publishes about one volume of poetry a year.

If you are looking for poetry sales -- you won't get very far.

If you are simply looking to publish poetry, then Dialogue, Irreantum, Sunstone, Segullah and BYU Studies all publish poetry.

The last major Mormon poetry anthology was Harvest in 1989. It was published by Signature and is not likely to be repeated because not only is the market worse than ever for poetry, but also the anthology was put together by Eugene England and Dennis Clark and there just isn't anybody around these days with editorial and marketing pull of those two (Dennis Clark is still alive, of course).

However, one thing Kent Larsen and I have discussed at A Motley Vision is the idea of poetry chapbooks. This is something that doesn't really exist in the Mormon market even though it's the primary way new poets are published elsewhere (in the U.S.).

There are several Mormon poets out there who have published several poems in several of the journals (Darlene Young and Patricia Karamesines, for example), but have no way to take the next step. Since neither the AML nor BYU nor any of the periodicals seem to be interested in taking this step, I think some of the poets should consider forming a co-op to publish chapbooks. With enough sales (which will be very small), grants and fundraising, such a co-op might just be able to publish two chapbooks a year and break even.

William Morris said...

BTW, thanks for bringing this up LDS Publisher and poetry-writing reader.

Because of this post, I was inspired to further elaborate on my comment above:

http://www.motleyvision.org/?p=431

Kent Larsen said...

William didn't mention it, but as a publisher myself, I am willing to publish LDS poetry, if I think it is of sufficient quality. I expect to have at least one volume of poetry out later this year.

My firm, Mormon Arts and Letters, is fairly new, but we are open to quality literature, especially works that are neglected because of the nature of the market. [For example, we are also looking for foreign language literature, which has been ignored by the LDS market.]

But I do agree that poetry is a very difficult sell these days, at least in the LDS market. I have the impression that things have improved in the national market in the last 5-10 years, but that hasn't filtered its way to the LDS market yet.

The national market is seeing events like poetry slams and a lot of music these days is closer than ever to spoken poetry.

The biggest source of the problem, IMO, is the lack of venues for poetry to reach the public. The LDS market has few venues anyway, and as a result poetry seldom reaches many members of the Church.

I think it will eventually turn around -- at least in the very long term (10 years or more). It would probably help if we did more to expose our audience to poetry.

Laura H. Craner said...

I wonder if someone at BYU or UVSC could pull off an LDS poetry slam. I have put together poetry readings for Church members where I live, but we never get enough poets or enough of an audience to do a real slam. Maybe this is a pipe dream, but it would be even cooler if it could be broadcast over the internet or live-blogged. I like the idea of poets co-op. That's good food for thought.

Emily M. said...

Segullah runs an annual poetry contest (I think Dialogue does as well, although I am not as familiar with it). We are always interested in good poetry; we do recommend that interested poets read Segullah first (all issues are archived online) to get a feel for what we publish. Also, our blog has a "writing tips" section, with ideas for writers, including this excellent post by Sharlee Glenn.