Deborah P Kolodji (dkolodji) wrote,
Deborah P Kolodji

Why don't more poets read poetry?

Bruce Boston has an article this month in the Fortean Bureau called, "The Failure of Genre Poetry". This is a must-read for anyone interested in genre or speculative poetry:

In the course of his discussion of genre poetry, Boston mentioned the fact that most science fiction writers come into the field because they enjoy reading science fiction, likewise mystery writers usually start off by reading mysteries written by others, yet genre poets don't usually become genre poets because they read genre poetry.

This reminded me of something that was said in the poetry panel I attended at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA last May, namely that there are more people who write poetry in the United States than there are who read it.

This makes no sense to me even as I realize that there's a real possibility this might actually be true. How can a poet write poetry if he doesn't read it? Why would someone be drawn to poetry if he had never experienced it?

For my own part, I think my love of poetry started with nursery rhymes and picture books. Then, I had a junior high school science teacher, Dr St Lawrence, who used to read poems by Edgar Allen Poe to us at the end of class, which was one of the highlights of my day. So, I think I was drawn into genre poetry by a combination of Poe and Star Trek.

It's true I wrote adolescent verses about Captain Kirk years before I'd ever heard of the SFPA, let alone read an issue of Star*Line, however I'd like to claim it was from ignorance more than deliberate oversight. So, I'm hoping that genre poets simply are drawn to writing genre poetry before they realize that journals like The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, Star*Line, Dreams and Nightmares, Strange Horizons, Abyss and Apex, Scifaikuest, Raven Electrick, etc, etc, etc...exist. I'd like to hope if genre poetry was more readily available in school libraries and in the public awareness, it would be read more often.

But then, there's the nagging doubt in the back of my head planted by the Festival of Books panel discussion...why don't more poets read poetry? Based upon the number of internet poetry sites and discussion groups out there, why aren't more books of poetry sold in the United States?

For that matter, what books of poetry have you read lately?

And, I suppose you're wondering the same. I'm currently reading "danger on peaks" by Gary Snyder. It's not genre poetry but poetry that speaks to that part of me that enjoys haiku and nature-inspired poetry. And by nature-inspired poetry, I by no means am referring to bucolic pastoral scenes, but the sheer power of the Mt St Helen's eruption, for example, the subject of Snyder's "1980: Letting Go". I've long been fascinated by the forces of nature, so I'd also classify "danger on peaks" as "must read" material.
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