Friday, July 17, 2009

Australian poetry trends and audiences

I must acknowledge Laura Jan Shore, fellow POW! touree in 2003 who picked me up on the bad habit most poets have of reinforcing that self-fulfilling prophecy, that Australian poetry doesn't and won't sell. Guilty of this even though I had a more positive view of the actual interest in poetry. Since then I am always on watch for new measures (rather than the usual focus on book sales) and was thrilled to hear Mike Ladd announce at a festival workshop, that the audited audience for his PoeticA program (ABC Radio National) was 50000. By 2008 it had grown to 65000 and that's just in five major cities. He estimates a real total of around 90000 listeners. In Poetry: Is There an Audience for it? (Five Bells: Australian Poetry Vol 14 #4/Vol 16 #1) he gives a useful and encouraging summary of significant poets and promising new talent, titles that have sold 10000 and 50000 (okay it doesn't happen every day), and poetry publishing activities including 80-100 new collections published each year. For anyone else fascinated by stats and loving to be in the picture see also Bronwyn Lea's Trends in Poetry Publishing: 1995-2008 in the same publication (these papers are from the Australian Poetry Festival held in 2008). It begins with the drama played out in the publishing industry in the early 1990s and its impact on poetry and gives an account of poetry presses which have come and gone and those still at it, the emergence of online magazines, poetry in schools, etc. Apparently we fare well compared to other countries if we adjust for population but Bronwyn raises the old bugbear: what would happen if poetry was marketed as well as other genres? Exactly. Loads more in Five Bells. Subscribe here.

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