I received a very kind personal rejection from Deseret Book this week. I had known before I ever sent the query in that my cause was hopeless. Poetry doesn’t sell. Besides that, Deseret Book doesn’t sell poetry. (Probably for precisely that reason.) I went into DB a few months ago and asked where the “poetry section” was. The answer? They had none, but I might find something over in “Inspirational.” (That’s when I knew it was hopeless, because only bad poetry is considered “inspirational.”) When I headed over there, I found ZERO poetry collections. As in NOT ONE. As in not even sappy “too often for Mormons” poetry, let alone any Carol Lynn Pearson, who I thought was still selling (don’t people still read her?).
It was a sad day.
So it was sheer stupidity that made me send the query anyway. But I thought I had a hook: what about a very small (chapbook) collection of poems about womanhood and motherhood, all dressed up nice in a little booklet and packaged to sell for Mother’s Day right next to the other little Mother’s Day booklets they sell. Yeah, I know people don’t buy poetry but maybe, just maybe I could be the exception. With the right packaging and marketing, you know. What if we had a radio ad (dream on) of someone reading the boob job poem? If you heard that poem, wouldn’t you want to go check out the booklet? (OK, now you know how off-my-rocker I was because of course Deseret Book could never sell anything with the phrase “boob job” in it.) I just thought—hoped—that maybe I could straddle the line between accessible/inspirational (cheesy) and poetic/skillful (esoteric) in such a graceful way that people would actually be fooled into being entertained by poetry, and want to share the experience with others.
So the nice gentleman at DB said, very nicely, that poetry doesn’t sell. Or at least, if it were going to sell (and my poetry was interesting and he enjoyed it—so why not mine?), it would have to be from a grass-roots level. Once I (or someone else) create the demand, DB would be happy to step in and supply it, of course.
Um, how does someone go about creating a grass-roots-level demand for poetry?
Yeah, yeah. Self-publish a chapbook, pass it around to everyone and their grandma’s dog, build a following, etc. I guess that could be done. I’m beginning to waiver in my belief that I’m the one to do it, though.
But here’s my question for you: have you ever bought a collection of poetry? I know you haven’t so let me ask you another: when was the last time you read poetry on purpose? How did you get it? Did you seek out more? What poetry have you read (over your lifetime) that you enjoyed? Can you imagine ever buying poetry? If so, what kind would it be and where would you find it?