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Apr. 13 2010 - 4:51 pm | 106 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Adopt a Poet for National Poetry Month

Every now and then you read about someone like Harryette Mullen winning a large cash prize for poetry.

Which is, of course, very nice for Mullen, a professor at UCLA who writes lines like:

“she gets to the getting place

without or with him

must I holler when

you’re giving me rhythm.”

(from [go on sister sing your song])

But it also points to the larger issue of how most poets (and I think we can safely add in most other writers, artists in general) make very, very little money, woefully little money.

And it’s not a new problem.

The new issue of Lapham’s Quarterly has a nifty graphic showing the day jobs of some writers over the years: Trollope worked as a postal inspector, Bronte was a governess, Kafka worked for an insurance company.

In 1938, Time Magazine reported on a study from the Academy of American Poets on the average earning of “established” poets — defined as one in middle life with four volumes to his credit.

“That poets have low incomes is no more news than that they are temperamental,” the story started before summing up that a poet with those books might get $250 a year and maybe another $250 a year from magazines.

I bring it up because April is National Poetry Month, which was started by the Academy in 1996 with the hopes of turning April into a month “when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets around the country band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.”

The program has grown over the years and is now celebrated with readings and programs in schools and even an app.

Well, if you’re looking for a way to mark the occasion — I have an idea: adopt a poet.

Not literally, of course.

In an age where Glenn Beck is making some $13 million a year from books, maybe it’s time we did something to help those who are certainly as deserving.

So, what do I mean by adopting a poet?

Buy a book from a small press such as Wesleyan University Press, which yesterday celebrated one of its books winning the Pulitzer.

Subscribe to a literary magazine.

Go to a reading.

Support a not-for-profit.

The key is use this month to show your appreciation for the arts — poetry, in particular — and the people who create it,


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    An award winning journalist twice nominated by his editors for a Pulitzer Prize, Miner is the former City Editor of The New York Sun. He has also written for The Washington Post, The New York Post, The New York Times and The Oregonian. His reporting has freed from prison a man wrongfully convicted of murder and another time helped send a corrupt politician to jail

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