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Started March 11, 2012 - 02:25 PM



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Can I make a living writing poetry?

Can I make a living writing poetry?

#2 Soul Glo Replied March 12, 2012 - 02:20 AM

Soul Glo

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Jordan, I suspect you're going to hear some skeptical and discouraging responses, but I think there is some reason for hope. In the strictest sense, there are writers who do make a living off of publishing poetry anthologies, but this is increasingly rare in proportion to our population. I would think very few people actually pay their bills and invest in their retirements solely on publishing poetry. This is possible, but certainly not practical. However, if you are willing to expand your view of poetry to include things such as song lyrics, greeting cards, and online content, the outlook begins to look much sunnier. The important points to remember are that art is a dynamic subject, and its specific media constantly adapt to the times. If you are passionate about your work, you can find a way to turn your passion into a productive living. It's not for everyone, and it's usually wise to have a safety net or back-up plan in place, but you should never be afraid of following your dreams.

#3 redwildsparkles Replied March 12, 2012 - 01:28 PM


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Darryl has some excellent suggestions. I would add, the best, most practical way to earn a truly reasonable living by writing poetry is to get into advertising. (If, as Darryl specified, you keep a really open mind about the definition of "poetry.")

Catchphrases, mottoes, tag lines, slogans, and specific ad campaigns often revolve around short, catchy rhymes ("Swiffer: The Quicker Picker Upper," or "Don't be vague, ask for Haig") and other poetic devises (alliteration: "Britain's best business bank," or anaphora, "Coleman: Better choice, better joys").

TV commercials often use songs, which are (as Darryl) pointed out, a form of poetry.

None of these things are really the same as writing true poetry, in your own style, creating your own art. But the sad fact of the matter is, nobody buys poetry anymore. Try to think of the last NYTimes bestseller that was a poetry book. Or even any popular poetry book that came out within the last five years. Or ten years.

Poets who make it big are incredibly, incredibly rare. And, sadly, even those who "make it big" are seldom rich or famous. Even the best poet is a big fish in a small pond, because the percentage of Americans who 1) care about poetry, 2) read it regularly, 3) follow it currently, and 4) pay money for it, form an incredibly small pond. And even in that pond, the competition is fearsome.

One last way to actually earn money via poetry: Teach it. People are much more willing to pay for poetry classes than actual poetry. Become an English teacher and use poetry to improve students' writing skills, or teach literature and focus a class on poetry, or offer an adult evening continuing-education class at a community center or community college. Then you still get to immerse yourself in poetry, and even write some to use in class, but you also have a career.

#4 Kris Replied March 14, 2012 - 03:10 PM


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I hate to be negative, so I'm not :) If you really want to make a living writing poetry, your best bet is to self-publish your work in PDF format and sell it online. You can write e-books and then upload them to different online stores for distribution. Alternatively, you can start a blog website and advertise your writing there. In order to make any money from it, you have to advertise so that people can find your work.

You can also start a poetry business in a similar way that Hallmark sells greeting cards. Just make up poems for people to use on special occasions and charge them for the service. You can't really go to school to be a professional poet; however, you can still find ways to make money doing what you love. Best of luck to you!

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