This is not the whole article reprinted here - it is one excerpt which shows holiday poetry book sales for one specific bookstore. The others, however, are depressingly similar in their tallies.
Open Books: A Poem Emporium 2414 North 45th Street Seattle, Washington 98103 (206) 633-0811 www.openpoetrybooks.com Bookseller: John Marshall TOP POETRY SALES 1. Tao Te Ching translated by Sam Hamill (Shambhala) - 13 copies 2. Solar Prominence by Kevin Craft (Cloudbanks Books) - 12 copies 2. Wild Braid by Stanley Kunitz (W.W. Norton) - 12 copies 3. Funny by Jennifer Michael Hecht (University of Wisconsin Press) - 11 copies 4. Poems from Ish River Country by Robert Sund (Shoemaker and Hoard) - 10 copies 5. Enter Invisible by Catherine Wing (Sarabande Books) - 8 copies 5. Niagara River by Kay Ryan (Grove Press) - 8 copies 6. New & Selected Poems Volume Two by Mary Oliver (Beacon) - 7 copies 7. Pieces of Air in the Epic by Brenda Hillman (Wesleyan University Press) - 6 copies 8. Say Uncle by Kay Ryan (Grove Press) - 5 copies 8. Elephant Rocks by Kay Ryan (Grove Press) - 5 copies 9. Migration by W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon Press) - 5 copies 9. A Family of Poems edited by Caroline Kennedy (Hyperion) - 5 copies 9. Dangerous Astronomy by Sherman Alexie (Limberlost Press) - 5 copies 9. Winter Morning Walks by Ted Kooser (Carnegie-Mellon University Press) - 5 copies 10. Facts About the Moon by Dorianne Laux (W.W. Norton) - 4 copies 10. The Trouble with Poetry by Billy Collins (Random House) - 4 copies 10. Dog Language by Chase Twichell (Copper Canyon Press) - 4 copies 10. Jejuri by Arun Kolatkar (New York Review Books Classics) - 4 copies
Pretty sad, yes? The 10th top selling poetry book, written by none other than Billy Collins who is one of the top selling living poets, sold a whopping 4 copies. I wonder how many a book of poems by (oh say) me would sell?
This couldn't have come at a better time. I'm attempting to pull together enough poems to create a manuscript for a poetry contest being sponsored by AWP. The Association of Writers & Writing Programs -- Serving Writers Since 1967 Well, not exactly "enough" poems, I have more than "enough" - I just don't have enough good poems to qualify for inclusion. Funny how a poem you wrote a year ago sounded so good a year ago but doesn't stand up to today's test of time. I'd like to think it's because I know more now and I have higher expectations of myself, but I fear the truth is - it isn't very good now because it wasn't very good then. Sometimes, after working and working to write a poem and then revising and revising that same poem 50 or 100 times, you become so close to it and you have so much invested in it that it HAS to seem good. But give yourself enough time to forget the work and to forget the agony and it's just a poem, and, unfortunately, it's not even a very good one.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Do I really think I have something to say that no one else has or will say as well as I can say it? Do I really believe that I have the talent and the intelligence and the utter nerve that it takes to write even one poem, never mind a whole book of poems, that someone else will want to read?
Besides that, Dan is making me switch from my familiar and hopelessly outdated and incompatible-with-virtually-everything word processor to his widely-used but Geek-to-me Microsoft Word program.....and I can't figure out how to get the damn page number thingie to work. There - I've got an excuse. This particular contest will have to pass me by.