Hook Them While They’re Young
I’ve very nearly got religion.
Not for any gods or holy books, none of which interest me in the slightest except as source material, one way or another – but for a new way of thinking about poetry and the market. Do you know what are the most important literary awards in terms of their effect on sales? Certainly not the National Book Award, and, for Americans, who recently seem to be excuded from consideration, not the Nobel.
Marilyn Nelson started her workshop by saying “I’m carrying a flag bearing the letters YA.” Last year she got a large 5-figure advance for 10 sonnets in a collaboration with another poet.
For the YA market, there is no compromise in subject matter or treatment — Neil Gaiman won this year’s Newbery — 16-20 year olds know when you condescend, and their response is not kind. And there’s a lot of poetry – this year one of the Newbery honor selections was The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle.
And just maybe, if we work to create a new generation of readers of poetry, they will keep reading poetry as they grow older.