A Radical Interpretation of the Text

This weekend, at least for part of the time, I will buried up to my neck in articles and readings for the research paper I'm writing for my class. It explores why nonprofit presses have sprung up and even proliferated in an otherwise highly profitable commercial market—publishing.

I'm particularly interested in why poetry has been engulfed by the nonprofit press segment and what impact is has on literature and on reading habits.

So far, I have read many articles that indicate that a mass shift in the publishing industry in the mid-90s drew most of our major publishers under the auspices of just a few multinational conglomerate enterprises, like Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, some German folks, and even some British firm.

With fewer spoons stirring the poet, there are fewer risks taken by the "big" houses...leaving a market failure gap for the reading public who value experimental literature, poetry, and other related texts.

Nonprofits frequently exist to fill perceived gaps in for-profit markets in "public service" to a niche community of stakeholders.

Master's degree, here I come.


  1. Fascinating subject for a paper. What makes poetry interestig to me is that it is not a commercial venture. Who gets rich writing/reading/publishing poetry? Nobody (monetarily rich, that is). And that is fine with me. Or . . . does this merely ghetto-ize poetry?
    Is there a similar trend toward the "small non-profit" in the film industry, in this age of "blockbusters?"

  2. I would imagine there is some link to the "Long Tail" phenomenon here, too (you've probably already looked at that I bet).

  3. Hi,

    I think that a lot of poets and people outside of the poetry world make this common, false claim: people don't get rich from writing/reading/publishing poetry.

    I beg to differ, and if you notice a slightly perturbed angry tone in this post, forgive me. I have nothing but respect, Peter, for your work, and your opinions, but I think that statement is dead wrong.

    As a fairly young poet who graduated from an MFA and a PhD program, I wanted to teach creative writing. And not because it seemed like an inevitable next step.

    I really like teaching. And I like teaching how to improve one's writing, make students aware of the formal possibilities of their writing. (Content doesn't interest me much as a writing teacher.)

    But to get a tenuretrack job and to be able avoid suttling myself around from campus to campus, I was scared as I approached the end of my degrees. (The only reason I got a PhD in creative writing was to make myself marketable.) How does one make oneself marketable? And how does one obtain a tenure track job (which to me was riches)?

    Through publication. Through writing/reading/publishing poetry.

    I had a lot of poetry publications. But it wasn't enough. I didn't have a book. I had some connections, but EVERYBODY has some connections.

    So I decided to make myself marketable, more marketable by writing/publishing creative non-fiction. Which is what I did. I had no choice. I needed health insurance and I wanted to teach 3 classes as opposed to 6-7.

    I got my job. I lucked out. A lot of my friends were (are) much more talented than me, and still those publications matter. They may not pay off as individual investments, but cummulatively they add up: and the better the publications: the better the awards, the better the discretionary salary incomes, etc.

    When you don't have, you see the money values behind things, and when you sorta have, you see the money values behind things, because you always want to have more (that's being human): so I wonder how much your statement is predicated on your own class priviledge. And again: I don't mean this meanly or assaultively.

    But posts are meant to engage, at least I hope, and have authentic dialogues. Again I really like your poems, I bought your last book, and will buy the next.

    But still. I'm fighting to be a middle-class white gay male who doesn't have to check his bank account to see if he can afford that new pair of shoes. Or nice shirt. And reading/writing/publishing poetry and otehr works are going to get me there even if not immediately after the publication of a single publication.

    Anyone who denies (and I don't think you are) of the economic value of where you publish, who you publish with is making some claims that obfuscate the distinctions of class in the poetry "business" and publisihing in general.

    Steve Fellner

  4. Good points, Steve.
    There certainly are indirect monetary benefits from publishing, such as you describe. And who knows, I may want to turn in the stethoscope and try teaching someday, and having pubs defintiely helps get teaching positions.

    Still, my main reason to write (I think) is for personal satisfaction. Not for prizes or money (though to have them would sure be nice).