revisiting ten questions for poets – on poetry, publication, technology

This series represents a wealth of poetry and po-biz wisdom from a bunch of awesome contemporary poets. I used to have these linked as separate standing pages, but didn’t refresh that format when I changed blog themes recently. Have just added these standing pages back to the left-hand column, and got lost in re-reading while I did so. Thank you once again to the generous poets who participated for doing so! That wonderful group includes Ron Silliman and the late Reginald Shepherd.

poets on poetry
poets on publication
poetry editors on publishing poetry
poets on technology

Are you a professional or non-professional poet?

Read with interest this blog post by Charles Jensen, in which he wrote:

Over the last few years, I have encountered and had the pleasure to work with some amazingly talented poets who live entirely outside the academy. I’ve come to understand this is more common than many people think, particularly those who spend the majority of their lives and careers within the academy.

These “outsider” poets generally have no idea that poetry is so entrenched in higher education. They perceive poetry as open to everyone, not as a cloistered and privileged pursuit. They have less awareness of the inner machinations of what some folks call “pobiz” and are generally the happier for it. They may or may not have heard of AWP if they’ve attended it. They read many poets, focusing, perhaps, on what their friends in their poetry circles are reading, what has been nominated for national awards, or what their booksellers or librarians recommend. I think this community of poets is growing not more larger, but more visible.

There is this duality in the poetry community, although I tend to think of it as professional / non-professional, rather than academic / non-academic. The professional poets, in my mind, are the ones whose living is somehow tied to poetry — whether writing it, or teaching it, or both. Each hour of teaching, each publication credit, everything they read or write or do as a poet, has a potential or actual dollar value for this group, and all their decisions need to be taken with this fact in mind. (I hasten to add that I am in no way asserting that anyone is ever foolhardy enough to try and make a living actually selling poems. What money there is in poetry definitely does not come from selling poems.)

The non-professionals (people like me) earn their livelihood in some way completed unrelated to poetry and do the poetry thing pretty much as a hobby. (Although labeling poetry ‘hobby’ doesn’t seem right – in fact screechingly un-right – but I guess that’s a separate post.)

Obviously, the common factors that unite the two groups (addiction to writing and reading poetry, desire to be read and understood etc) are much stronger than those that separate them, which is probably why the separating factors don’t tend usually to get much play.

It’s funny – Charles’ sense seems to be that there are more ‘professional’ than ‘non-professional’ poets out there, and I always had it figured in my head the other way around completely. It has always seemed to me – based purely and vaguely on the evidence of anecdote, impression and interactions with other poets over the years – that most of at least the online poetry community is ‘non-professional.’

Am I wrong there? Are we mostly professional poets online, do you think?


Wow. Check this out. Makes you wonder yet again what goes on inside the plagiarist’s head. Ethical and moral considerations aside (and goodness knows they are many and weighty), in this day of instant searches and perenially accessible information, behavior like this just seems really, really dumb.

Sorry to hear about this with regard to your fine work, Barbara Jean.

poetry discussion lists

Poetics List: Our aim is to support, inform, and extend those directions in poetry that are committed to innovations, renovations, and investigations of form and/or/as content, to the questioning of received forms and styles, and to the creation of the otherwise unimagined, untried, unexpected, improbable, and impossible.

Wom-po: An international listserv devoted to the discussion of Women’s Poetry. Membership is open to all individuals who are interested in discussing poetry written by women. The discussion covers women poets of all periods, aesthetics, countries, and ethnicities.

NewPoetry List: Has two purposes: information and discussion related to contemporary poetry. We welcome publication announcements, reviews, essays, open letters, quotes, news items, calls for submissions, and, of course, poems and your commentary.


These are the three I know of and it’s quite surprising how long it took me to gain awareness of their existence, and then to actually sign up for them. I haven’t determined the exact List Serv Ratio of Noise to Substance for any yet, but so far so good, in all three cases.

Are there any other poetry lists out there that no-one’s told me about?

The Special Relationship

“A phrase often used to describe the exceptionally close political, diplomatic, cultural and historical relations between the United States and the United Kingdom.”

In everything but poetry?

I’ve been comparing the frequency and level of engagement in the responses in this forum to those in this one

And at least this UK discussion board has a forum for US (& other) poetry. I’m not aware of any US discussion board which gives a specific reciprocal place to UK (& other) poetry.

The US and UK poetry seem, from here, to be two separate universes, two distinct planets, with only the occasional pond-straddling pioneer (Rob Mackenzie and just a handful of others come to mind) at the ‘working’ level, where most of us operate.  (At the mega-poet level – where there are mega-poets – all things become much more equal, don’t they?)

Is this an accurate picture? If so, is such working-level separateness good or bad for Poetry?

And that’s just the US-UK divide. There’s also the huge and important rest of the English-speaking poetry blogosphere.  Is there more or less connectedness there?

Should people who care about Poetry be trying to do anything about any of this?

Or should we just be all Candide and il faut cultiver son jardin?