Part VII. The Pro Circuit

  1. Will You Ever Be Poet Laureate?
  2. What It Takes To Go Pro…Could You Do It?
  3. Connections
  4. Should Poets Be Paid?

1. Will You Ever Be Poet Laureate?

If you have reached your 40’s and have not devoted the last twenty years of your life to getting a name by attending classes, being mentored by a “biggie,” attending scores of workshops and summer programs throughout the country, 99% of you can kiss the Poet Laureate job bye-bye. It doesn’t happen because you are a great poet. It doesn’t happen by osmosis. It happens because of a planned course of action… an obsession, in most instances. You should have the desire to write great poetry. We all do. However, most great poets never become well-known poets. And, if you will pull out one of your modern American poetry anthologies, you will readily note that the quality of many poems probably does not exceed your finest stuff. So, unless you are prepared to change your entire lifestyle so that someone knows your name when you are dead, give up on the “let’s get famous” stuff and settle down to the writing of great poetry.

2. What It Takes To Go Pro…Could You Do It?

We were struck, when watching the PBS Poetry Series, by the absolute single-minded pursuit of fame that characterized Robert Frost. Frost sold his home, left his work, and took his wife and many children to Europe in search of making a name for himself as a poet. They suffered hardships and dedicated themselves only to this goal. After RF made a success in England, he return to the United States with credentials and the rest, as they say, is Poetry History.

Are you ready to be a professional poet? Very few of you will make much money or become famous. Most of you will have to be content to go in one of two directions. First, you could be an academic… make your livelihood by teaching a few college poetry classes and write on the side. Or, you could be peripatetic — wandering from workshop to workshop, grant to grant, trying to eke out a living and writing on the side. The field is not what it was in years gone by. Don’t give up the day job just yet.

3. Connections

Recently, one of our members shared a copy of a new magazine. It was a revelation. Most of the poetry was written by top of the line name poets. Even though much of the poetry wasn’t the greatest, the poets…

Wow, the poets! How could this be? It didn’t take long to figure it out. One of the workshop regulars decided to start up a magazine. By using the contacts from the poetry workshops around the country, s/he was able to write or call and get some tremendous support for Vol.1, No. 1. We were, of course, a tad jealous until we read our latest volume.

We realized what wonderful names our poets have and how we love to see those unfamous but most welcome names in our postbox. We have the quality because it was built from scratch not because we knew someone.

Our pride is not in one issue. It is in all of them… about twenty five by now.

4. Should Poets Be Paid?

We had a poet chasten us a few year back about free readings and giving our services to the community. The admonition was that poets are professionals who should be paid for their efforts. Why did that stick in our poetic craw? Simple. This is a world in which there is far too little respect for poets and poetry and anything that limits or restricts our building positive bridges between poets and their potential audience is not only selfish, but also self-defeating.

We are not stupid! We’d like to make a buck from the myriad hours devoted to The Comstock Review and Poetpourri, Jr. However, if we get into personal aggrandizement our financial rewards will be meager and our dreams for what poetry could mean to the “masses” will be dead. While it would be nice to live in a world where we could be paid… until this community, any community recognizes the intrinsic value of poetry, it is our obligation to do whatever it takes to create an atmosphere wherein poets can someday be financially rewarded for their efforts.