A wee while back, I speculated about the preception and truth of poetry sales. This was before the BBC's admirable poetry season and Salt's cash crisis. Now, today, courtesy of Matt Merritt, I found this article on the effect the Beeb's tranche of programmes has had on poetry sales.
Or, to be more precise, the sales of some poetry books. All by dead white poets, though one of them isn't male. Some of the percentages are staggering, and I can't help but wonder whether there was any similar effect on sales for the contemporary poets who featured as talking heads in Owen Sheers's series on BBC4. They each got to read a poem of theirs, but they were largely there to discuss the poet and poem under scrutiny (and a good thing it was too; I'd much rather have fellow poets do that than non-poet academics).
Would a similar run of programmes on living poets have a similar effect on sales of their works? I guess the Beeb might not find it so easy to get hold of knowledgable, articulate, well-known enthusiasts to present flagship programmes for such a season, but it's well worth a shot. (Any commissioning editors reading this?)
In not unconnected news, Chris Hamilton-Emery blogs compellingly about the origins of, and response to, Salt's "Just One Book" campaign. This, like the response to the BBC season, demonstrates that there is a market for poetry*. The problem is 1) tapping it and 2) broadening it. That's where a well-researched, well-produced, well-presented season on contemporary poetry could do the art a world of good. The public, of course, needs a way into any art form, especially when the reality of its practice challenges their perceptions. The Beeb has shown how it can achieve that. The challenge now is to take that into new territory.
*The Ambulance Box is now into its third print run!