Making money and poetry

This is by way of a digression and is more about thinking out loud than but putting forward a coherent view.

I’ll start with stating the obvious, nobody gets rich from the writing of poems. Even the finest and most respected poets have to earn an income from a day job.

This is a fact.

However, I currently find myself in an odd position. The company in which I held a 50% share has just been sold to a large national retailer which means (my partner tells me) that I don’t need to work any more. Because of my mental health issues and the niggling protestant work ethic, I do actually want to continue to earn an income. I also find that I have a bit of entrepeneurial ability.

So, whilst I have a few potential projects to keep me busy for the next few years, I’m attracted to testing out the monetary value of doing ‘something’ with poetry. To start with I need to put together an analysis of poetry as product. This may seem crass but it does help to clear away a lot of the fluff and get down to basics:

  1. poetry has the potential to change lives in a fundamental way;
  2. poetry has a really bad reputation/image in the commercial world especially when compared with other forms of creative expression;
  3. there is a market need for poetry, many, many people are dissatisfied with what popular culture has to offer and would welcome the opportunity to have their view of the world challenged;
  4. most poems can be learned;
  5. the fundamental task would be one of market creation which would involve prising poetry away from the academy (this must not involve any kind of ‘dumbing down’);
  6. marketing would involve challenging the current poor image that poetry has and encouraging poets to talk about their work in clear and unambiguous terms.

The aim would be to make poetry as popular as soccer within a generation and to start this off by running a series of television programmes on poems and what they can do. For example, it would be good to film Kenneth Goldsmith talking about conceptual poetry and compare this with Keston Sutherland talking about political poetry. I also have in my head a pastiche of Grand Designs called Grand Conceits where a film crew follow a respected poet through the arduous business of writing a poem.

Once you start thinking about poetry as product you begin to realise that some poems have more commercial value than others. The Maximus Poems have enormous potential as does Triumph of Love but I’d have to try a bit harder to extract value out of  Breathturn or Comus.

My role in this? I’d like to have a go at market creation, for a very small percentage…..


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