Person opening notebook on brown wooden table

How to Guide an Author to Read Poetry to Improve their Prose

In the developmental editing process, you might notice an author relying on similar images and words that are repeated every so often throughout the manuscript. As editors, we can facilitate and expand the growth of our authors’ prose through poetry to inspire fresh language and images. By encouraging the author to read poetry for specific craft skills and ideas, they can translate what the poets are doing to their prose writing, and add more diverse elements to their style. Some of the takeaways you can have your authors focus on include:
Rhythm and Sound
Rhythm and the sound of words are key aspects to poetry, but prose writers can utilize similar techniques to enliven their sentences. In her article for NY Book Editors, Tania Strauss says through your control of rhythm and pacing, “you can manipulate the speed at which the reader reads, emphasize certain thoughts and ideas over others, and even affect the reader’s perception of the narrator’s personality.” With new perspectives on syntax and structure, your author can play around with the variability of their sentences. They can choose to lull the readers with their rhythm or to pack a punch into their prose with a staccato sentence, among other techniques. This is a good aspect of poetry to have authors focus on if you feel that their sentences could be more diverse or if you feel the author could lean into their style more.
Compelling Images and Metaphors
Many poets do a great job of creating lines that captivate the reader’s imagination. If you feel like a scene could use another memorable image or two to really solidify it, you can have your authors focus on how poets create interesting images, as well as how they build complex metaphors. Often, the images to look for are those that don’t rely on what we are used to as readers. Exciting and vivid images will build more intrigue into the descriptions a writer employs, and they won’t rely on the same, rote language that’s been used plenty of times before.
Pivot points, turns of phrase, subversions, and strong word choices are all ways a writer can surprise their readers at the sentence level. In poetry, this often comes in the form of line breaks or an interesting word or two, but the prose writer can use these small moments to keep readers interested in what your author will say next because they have already shown they take care in their craft to write thought-provoking sentences.
These can be ways an author builds momentum over the span of the scene, chapter, or manuscript to carry the reader through the story. If you find yourself pulled by the narrative but the sentences could have more moments of subverting the reader’s expectations, this is a fun space to have authors think about.
I’ve only included a few ways poetry can help your author’s prose, but it’s safe to say that there are many more craft elements to glean from poetry. However, you don’t need to prescribe poetry simply because the manuscript could use some sort of a boost. The venture into poetry can help a writer throughout their lifetime, and this is a great time to dive into poetry with all of the excellent contemporary poets publishing incredible work.

The Practice of Publishing Poetry Online

For the canonical and determined poet, publishing work can be an arduous and difficult undertaking. Due to the extensively competitive and fastidious nature of the poetry trade, publication stands as a recherché and illustrious accomplishment. As we live in a thriving technical era, online literary magazines, collections, catalogs, and idiosyncratic publications are becoming more and more relevant. Writers are able to submit work facilely and capriciously with the simple click of a button due to the accessibility of online publications. Moreover, writers are able to amply discover multitudes of internet literary publishers simply by searching the web, making the chances for their work to be seen exponentially higher than if they were limited to less practicable resources. Each literary journal or magazine accepts different mediums for their expositions. Contenders can submit artwork, fiction, nonfiction, essays, articles, and poetry depending on the decretum of the website they are submitting their work to.

For poetry, there are numerous possibilities to gain exposure, although the ultimate triumph of publication in an estimable collection remains a unique prize attained by a select few. Many online publishers accept a variety of literary content, but poets also have the opportunity to be a part of a compilation dedicated exclusively to poetry, which can be the more appealing option to those determinate and enraptured exclusively in the enterprise of poetry.

While there are a multitude of active online publications, many only accept submissions during particular times of the year, sometimes limited to only a month or two annually. Furthermore, publications determine limits on how many pieces an applicant is allowed to submit, limiting the poet even more in their chances of publication. Typical journals accept between three and five single-page poems total for each author to submit. Sometimes a small fee must also be paid in order to submit work. Conditions such as these are a definitive part of the online publication process, so while there may be a copious amount of magazines and journals publishing poetry, the opportunity to submit in the first place may be hard to come by. Many websites only release their publications once a year, so timing is an eminent part of the process. After submitting poetry, it typically takes up to six months to receive a response from the publication one submits to.

While online journals and magazines have made it easier for poets to gain exposure and release their work, the process can be quite daunting and trying. The most viable way to get a poem published is to be fervent and proactive, regularly researching and discovering viable publications at the right time.

You may be asking yourself, “Where do I start?” Here are a few examples of meritorious and innovative online poetry journals:

  1. The Shallow Ends
  2. Cotton Xenomorph
  3. Collective Unrest

Overcoming Barriers: Poetry in Translation

On January 5, 2020, Parasite director Bong Joon Ho walked on the stage of the Golden Globes to accept the award for Best Foreign Language Film. During his acceptance speech, the Korean director sent a message to all Americans: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” His earnest commentary echoed across platforms, encouraging the American audience to reflect on its relationship with foreign artistic works.

Bong Joon Ho’s point about Americans’ attitudes toward foreign films made me think of their equally great diffidence and disinterest in foreign literary work. As an international student from Italy who grew up reading mostly translated work, I was shocked to learn about the statistics for translated work published in America. In fact, less than 3 percent of all the books published in English are translated from another language. Growing up reading translated literature, particularly poetry, has allowed me to learn about cultures radically different from mine, broadening my understanding of others’ experiences and ideas.

Translated poetry has the ability to create tight connections between two languages more than any other kind of translated literary work. In this post, I want to explore the dynamics of poetry in translation, drawing from the testimonies of working translators, and to hopefully inspire the Ooligan audience to trust the beauty of translated poetry, read more of it, and acknowledge its importance in our historically non-diverse Western publishing world.

When researching the causes behind Americans’ lack of interest in translated poetry, I often came across the notion that poetry is fundamentally “untranslatable.” The translation of sophisticated word interplays, evocative images, and culturally relevant language is feared to be inaccurate and deemed to lose beauty when transformed from one language to another.

Poet and award-winning literary translator Aaron Coleman disagrees with this common fear in an interview with NPR. According to Coleman, the process of translating poetry invites “new opportunities to parse, and thus meditate on, any lingual and cultural disparities.” A translated poem is, therefore, the result of a close relationship between the translator and the piece. This relationship transcends distances and cultural challenges, creating an equally powerful transformed product. The artistry of a poem’s author engages with the cultural, emotional, and linguistic mediation of the translator, who is committed to preserving its original voice, lexicon, and structure.

Poetry translation is a work of metamorphoses, where there is no space for literal translation, according to translator Edith Grossman. The intrinsic meaning and sounds of a poem are painted anew by the translator, who engages in an artistic transaction between languages. Not every single element of the piece can be transposed, but it’s instead rearranged to create something as close as possible to the original, and as brilliant.

Poetry in translation becomes especially important when looking at the colonizing efforts of the English language. The enforced erasure of native languages during colonialism helped establish English as the most accessible and international language. In an article published by the Poetry Translation Center, writer Lola Olufemi affirms that during colonial domination English served as a method of “reaffirming the intellectual and artistic superiority of western power.” The devaluing and erasure of languages has meant the silencing of the stories and voices of the colonized. Olufemi also asserts that poetry is one of the main mediums used by members of former colonies to express themselves and regain ownership of their language today. The translated poetry of authors in the Global South and in non-Western countries allows for the preservation of these targeted languages, while simultaneously disseminating art, ideas, and voices of those who have been systematically silenced.

Are you interested in reading more translated poetry? Check out Modern Poetry in Translation, a literary magazine founded in 1965 by Ted Hughes and Daniel Weissbort in an effort to “get poetry out from behind the Iron Curtain into a wider circulation in English and to benefit writers and the reading public in Britain and America by confronting them with good work from abroad,” or The Poetry Translation Center, which focuses on poetry from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

In Defense of Instapoetry

I’m not going to start by defining it. You already know what Instapoetry is, and you might even have disdain for it. Often referred to as “fidget-spinner poetry” due to its brevity and its targeting of younger audiences, Instapoetry is frequently dismissed and even insulted by critics. But does Instapoetry have anything to offer—especially for us quick-scrolling younger generations?

Probably the most obvious facet of Instapoetry is the first part of the portmanteau: the social media. Many are quick to accuse Instapoets of building brands by sharing their work, but it’s important to note that these poets are constantly putting work out there. One of the hardest parts of being an artist is sharing your work—that initial hump of putting yourself out there and being vulnerable. Instapoets are especially bold (or even masochistic) in that they churn out work and post it for the masses to read, laud, and criticize.

“I’m taking my body back,” a poem from Rupi Kaur’s book Milk and Honey, discusses reclaiming one’s body after sexual assault. This poem makes Kaur vulnerable beyond just putting her work out for others to read. Kaur, the most famous Instapoet, often tackles racial identity and mental health in addition to feminist themes.

As Dr. Eleanor Spencer-Regan points out, “This is a radically democratic method of publishing that is giving opportunities to many women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and people who publicly disclose mental illnesses.” In addition to being a direct and publicized medium, Instapoetry is giving rise to a diversity of voices across the platform. Instapoetry has proven to be a forum for bringing past traumas, race, and other important themes to the forefront of social media.

Old-school poets are quick to knock this new poetry form, calling it a disgrace and a trend. However, the common form of Instapoetry (especially Kaur’s pieces) channels Greek and Roman epigrams to create terse, emotional, and memorable statements. Social media is the evolutionary ground for that ancient form and makes it available to current audiences.

Furthermore, Instapoets have made poetry more accessible. Formerly more academic and highbrow, poetry is now at the fingertips of our generation. The Gibraltar Magazine characterizes the phenomenon as “a formerly elite type of literature accessible on an entirely new platform, beyond the classroom and the often limiting nature of the Western canon.” Social media’s modern take on poetry gives the medium a fresh feel. The brief modern epigrams cause the scroller to pause, read, and consider the poem before moving on to other orders of business, threading the art form into the daily routines of the readers.

While poetry has been evolving as a form, its sales have also been growing every year. Booknet Canada reports that “poetry sales increased 79 percent over 2015 and between 2016 and 2017 the units sold increased by another 154 percent.” According to The Guardian, “1.3 [million] volumes of poetry were sold in 2018, adding up to £12.3 [million] in sales, a rise of £1.3 [million] in 2017.” Growth in sales over several years shows that this trend is not an anomaly. No one can deny Instapoetry’s influence on the market in recent years, putting books by Instapoets like r.H. Sin and Gabbie Hanna on prominent shelves.

But Instapoets are not the only ones enjoying a boost in sales. Graphs created by the NPD Group show that from 2013 to 2017, other poets enjoyed an increase in sales of nearly 50 percent. In 2017, poets like Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Emily Dickinson, and Homer were intermingled with Instapoets on poetry’s top-selling list. Instapoetry is something Laura Byager calls “gateway poetry” for younger audiences: it encourages them to branch out beyond the poetry on the screen and explore books by famous traditional poets.

With the resurgence of poetry sales and increasing accessibility, it’s hard to ignore that Instapoetry is earning its stripes. There will always be haters. Rap and hip-hop went through the same growing pains to establish themselves as respectable genres, and maybe one day Instapoetry will take its place as a subgenre through creative use of the digital medium.

Pop Poetry and the World of Tomorrow—Social Media Poetry for a New Generation

Scrolling through Instagram recently, which is possibly the worst way I could think of to begin a sentence, I came across a picture of fresh ink on an indeterminable portion of someone’s body that read in typeface, “a happy soul is the best shield for a cruel world —atticus.” I laughed, as I’ve never been one to find solace in such self-assured aphorisms. That is, until I realized the extent of the relationship between this social-media-based pop poetry to everyone else.

It’s difficult to avoid social media in 2017. It’s made its way into our daily lives: in the content we read, music we listen to, the mouths of our politicians, and the morning news. With a smartphone or a tablet in the hands of everyone from ages one to 101, it has become a form of regular communication.

An entire generation of young readers has grown up with these devices and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in hand. With 700 million Instagram users, 1.5 billion YouTube subscribers, 328 million active Twitter users, and 359 million Tumblr blogs, social media’s short form style of communication is, without a doubt, connecting people on a global scale.

The way we communicate is changing, and the power and ease of impersonal communication and immediate gratification of an internet-based society is making its mark on literature. According to the National Endowment of the Arts, literary reading has been in a slow decline for the past two decades, hitting an all-time low in 2015 at 43.1 percent, with poetry readers in an even sharper decline. That is, until recently. At least, in the traditional way we would imagine a reader with a book of Keats sprawled out in front of a roaring fire. Instead, those readers are scrolling through Instagram and Tumblr, on a bus or at home, scouring and commenting on poetry that resides solely online.

Short-format poetry has made a serious splash on the literary scene by use of social media. Platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Tumblr are giving writers immediate international visibility. These writers are self-published, with full control of their own media presence. And unlike any other generation, we’re seeing a more interactive aspect of poetry, as writers have the ability to directly connect with their audiences and receive instantaneous feedback.

The aforementioned anonymous poet Atticus has found success through his wildly popular Instagram account. With hundreds of thousands of followers and dedicated fans (yes, dedicated enough to tattoo themselves with his verse), Atticus grabbed the attention of writers and publishers alike.

Performance poetry has been given a massive boost through platforms such as YouTube. Button Poetry, for instance, with close to a million YouTube subscribers and nearly sixty thousand Instagram followers, even self-published an ebook called Viral. Their featured poets are filmed at slam poetry competitions and national events, such as Sabrina Benaim, whose viral poem, “Explaining my Depression to my Mother” has garnered over fifty million views.

These digital poets have gained not only hundreds of thousands of followers, boosts from celebrities, and the attention of corporate publishers such as TeenVogue, but many have landed lucrative book deals and even advertising campaigns.

Publishers and retailers are learning to adapt to their audiences in a modern world of digital-based consumption, as they must stay on top of social media trends in order to stay relevant. Andrews McMeel Publishing, usually a small market publisher for humor and gift books, recently released several bestselling poetry books—including Instagram star Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, which easily sold half a million copies. Tyler Gregson, an Instagram-based poet with three bestselling poetry books under his belt, recently partnered with Ralph Lauren and Nordstrom for separate ad campaigns. Businesses are catching on to the popularity of pop poetry and marketing it, creating a symbiotic relationship between the writer and the company in order to boost sales.

It can be argued that short-form pop poets are grabbing more readers because their work is easier to approach, connect with, and digest, just as it can be argued that it is destroying a deeply emotional human craft. Either way, publishers realize the marketing value. Mass-marketed monetization of poetry for a newer generation of consumers, whether or not you like it, is most certainly a reflection of the publishing industry in the digital age.

Writing Contests, Ticket Sales, and Speakers, Oh My!

Since being revamped and restructured last April, the Outreach and Project Development team has finally stabilized and secured a solid foundation for its future. We’ve got a lot of experience behind us now and plenty more on the horizon—including the much-anticipated tenth annual Write to Publish conference.
In our most recent post, we discussed key developments in the planning of the conference. Planning is still underway, and we still have a lot to prepare, but there are a few exciting new things we’d like to share with you!
Writing contests: The annual Write to Publish writing contests are now open to submissions! We welcome anyone and everyone to participate in our categories of flash fiction and poetry. Here are the submission guidelines:

  • Submissions are accepted February 1–March 1
  • The maximum length for flash fiction is 1,000 words
  • The maximum length for poetry is fifty lines
  • Flash fiction pieces must adhere to this year’s theme of journeys and adventures
  • Poetry pieces must adhere to this year’s theme of personal journeys
  • All work must be original and previously unpublished
  • $10 entry fee per submission

The winner of each category will receive a $50 cash prize, have their work published by a partnering journal, and get an opportunity to read their winning piece at this year’s Write to Publish conference! We’d like to thank Master’s Review for partnering with us for our flash fiction contest again this year as well as Silk Road Review for partnering with us for our poetry contest.
Tickets: Looking to attend Write to Publish 2018 and celebrate our tenth anniversary with us? Tickets are on sale now! Click here to purchase tickets online! Early Bird tickets are now on sale for a reduced price of $65 until March 1. After March 1, general tickets will be available for $80. Students may also purchase reduced-priced tickets for $35—just present a valid student ID at the registration table on the day of the conference. Reminder: Student tickets are available to students of all ages and from all schools and universities!
Speakers: We’re still gathering what promises to be an impressive list of speakers and panelists, but there are a few names we now have confirmed. We’re very excited to announce that Write to Publish 2018 will include Joe Biel, the founder of Microcosm Press and co-founder of the Portland Zine Symposium; Elly Blue, the co-owner of Microcosm Press and co-producer and director of Groundswell films; and Laura Stanfill, the publisher of Forest Avenue Press and the founder of Mainstreet Writers Movement!
What else to look for: Our 2018 social media campaign has officially launched, so watch the #W2P2018 hashtag for more information on the conference! We’ll be posting updates on confirmed speakers and topics for our panels and interactive learning sessions. Please note that this year’s conference will not include workshops like in previous years; instead, we’ve scheduled “interactive learning sessions” (ILSs), which are structured as participatory lectures with a single instructor. We will also have more information in the upcoming weeks about our ever-popular Pitch to a Professional session, which acts as an educational opportunity for writers to learn about the pitching process and receive feedback from agents and publishers on their pitching techniques.
We look forward to seeing you at the conference on April 21!

Backlist gets front seat for summer reading

Jordana Beh wishes our backlist had received the kind of graphic branding that current titles get. Jordana was the marketing department lead for Ooligan Press until she graduated in June, and was responsible for generating interest in all titles, not just the frontlist. That’s why she conducted a Backlist Sales Initiative every quarter to study the effectiveness of past marketing campaigns. This, in turn, revitalizes interest in books published in prior years by applying up-to-date strategies.
“Think about what we learned from the Fall BSI,” she said in an interview. “We saw that Untangling the Knot would’ve benefited from a social media mention when they won the Goldie.”

Jordana Beh, Ooligan Press marketing lead.

She and Abbey Gaterud, Ooligan’s faculty advisor, came up with a fresh idea: each book team would create a mini-marketing campaign around a distinctive theme, choosing the titles and developing short campaigns to be rolled out between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
“The mini-campaigns allow us to finesse the topic into something creative and strategic,” Jordana said. “And meaningful, in terms of what these books have to say.”
Here’s a quick reading guide—and thank heavens it’s a non-election year—for summer 2017. You’ll see all of these campaigns in the usual places. Main hashtags are listed here, but that’s just to get the conversation started.

  • Theme: School’s Out, May 27–June 10
  • Social: #getoutside
  • Titles: Ricochet River, A Series of Small Maneuvers

What it’s about: summer vacation, trips, destinations, exploring the outdoors, going where you don’t expect to go, and dealing with unexpected challenges. Celebrate National Grape Popsicle Day (May 27), National Hamburger Day (May 28), and, of course, Memorial Day (May 29).

  • Theme: Pride, June 1–30
  • Social: #prideNW
  • Titles: Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before, Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships & Identity, The Ghosts Who Travel With Me, Memories Flow in Our Veins: Forty Years of Women’s Writing from CALYX, Siblings and Other Disappointments

What it’s about: June is International Pride Month which recognizes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other queer lives and voices and their impact on history at all levels.

  • Theme: Summer Dreaming, June 28–July 10
  • Social: #summerdreaming
  • Titles: The Ghosts Who Travel With Me: A Literary Pilgrimage through Brautigan’s America, You Have Time For This: Contemporary American Short-Short Stories, Dot-to-Dot, Oregon, Brew to Bikes: Portland’s Artisan Economy

What it’s about: The endless possibilities of Northwest adventure, exploring fresh and diverse perspectives, escaping reality even if just for a little while.

  • Theme: Labor Day, Aug 23–Sept. 6
  • Social: #celebratework
  • Titles: Oregon at Work: 1859-2009, Dreams of the West: A History of the Chinese in Oregon, Speaking Out: Women, War, and the Global Economy, Brew to Bikes: Portland’s Artisan Economy

What it’s about: Everyone can be proud of the work they do. This reading list recognizes the importance of work as a celebration, diversity in work, history of blue-collar workers, and local Northwest businesses. Celebrate Labor Day (Sept. 4).

  • Theme: Back to School, Aug. 28–Sept 17
  • Social: #beyourself
  • Title: Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before

What it’s about: Many teens spend high school trying to figure out who they are and begin to understand their sexual identities. As school goes back into session, read about showcasing the diversity of young people, anti-bullying, and exploring your identity.

You don’t have to remember all the titles. Just find us @ooliganpress (on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and follow the hashtag trail.
#summerreading, #getoutside, #summerdreaming, #prideNW, #celebratework, #beyourself

American Scream: Palindrome Apocalypse: A Trip and a Treat for Your Mind

It’s rare for me to come across a fellow poetry lover these days who isn’t some flavor of English. Poetry gets a bad rap for being esoteric, obtuse, unnecessarily complicated or convoluted, or pretentious. I’m not here to say that poetry like that doesn’t exist (just as there is prose that carries these not so admirable qualities as well). What I am here to argue is that there are as many different types of poetry as there are prose and to judge a genre and condemn it before you have tried all the genre has to offer is a pity and a shame.

Recently, Ooligan Press decided to stop taking poetry submissions. Though this saddened me, it also spurred me to delve into our backlist titles and bring to light the poetry we published in the past. One such collection is American Scream: Palindrome Apocalypse, by Dubravka Oraic Tolic. This isn’t the poetry you studied in high school. The poet writes in a relatable, yet intricate and introspective manner of exploration and discovery. We are all on a journey to find our America—our freedom and our strength. Perhaps what I enjoyed the most in this collection was the eclectic variety of poetic forms that the poet utilized, from paragraphs to phrases to scattered words to shouting capital letters and even illustrations. It’s impossible to get bored. Dubravka Oraic Tolic uses Columbus’s journey to America and his subsequent discovery of India (the Indies) as a basis of comparison and contrast throughout. The very first poem had me intrigued and hooked from the start.

America has a smiling face

And usually arrives with the best intentions

Usually in spring, when the mayflowers flower

Of sailors and seas. When you want to vomit

From the waves on shore.

Each word, each combination, each point of stress and emphasis was carefully chosen and balanced to create a cohesive, vivid image in the reader’s mind.

Another aspect of this collection that I enjoyed were the references to historical artwork and other literature. There is a short poem in the collection that compares Columbus to Odysseus and America to the siren, “And we are hostages all / On the road to Ithaca.” The intricacy of the metaphor here has layers, as not only are we looking at the discovery of India and eventually America, but also the epic journeys of Greek mythology and the journey towards discovery that we all face.

Here’s my approach to poetry: I read through the poem once, and if anything at all caught my attention, even if it’s just a word or a particular image that popped into my head, I go back for a second read. I am also a practical poetry reader. I know that I am not going to understand or comprehend everything that the poet was trying to articulate or create—and that’s okay. Poetry is personal. It’s raw emotion and loaded words and stark images. It’s twisted and odd and confusing.
This collection is a good place to start. Check out Ooligan Press and peruse our backlist for other options to inspire your inner poet.

What You Reading For?

Forgive the assumption, but it seems like a pretty safe bet that you, dear Ooligan-blog reader, are the sort of person who spends a not-insignificant amount of time exploring physical and digital bookshelves in search of the next book to add to your “To Read” stack. If you’re anything like me, your approach to this search and selection process is almost entirely grounded in instinctual intuition and impulsive whim. Prowling the stacks, I become a literary flaneur, indiscriminately sampling any and every volume that catches my eye and frequently slipping it back onto the shelf just as quickly.

Except my bookshop behavior clearly can’t be so mindless and haphazard as it feels, because my “To Read” stack—the titles I actually end up carrying home and granting some of my precious reading time to—actually tends to look fairly coherent. Even the books I buy entirely on impulse, knowing nothing about them, fall into a single category: they are all “Books I’m Interested in Reading.”

What exactly is that phantom property, that elusive essence, that qualifies a select set of books for induction into our exclusive personal catalogs? Do we pick the books with the cleverest titles? Those with the niftiest covers? The books plastered with literary-prize stickers, or those prominently enthroned at the front of the store? When we perceive a newly discovered book as “a challenging read,” what exactly leads us to make that judgement? And are we intrigued by the challenge, or do we trot away in search of sweeter, lower-hanging fruit?

In short, what are we looking for in books? What do we read for? These questions are far more complicated and obscure than they have any right to be. Leisure time and mental focus are among modern citizens’ most limited and treasured resources, so it’s especially disconcerting to realize that we’re often not wholly privy to the underlying logic of how we came to be reading one book while allowing another to pass us by. Ultimately, there may be no accounting for literary taste, at least not in any thoroughly satisfactory way. Still, the next time you’re on the hunt for fresh meat, take a moment to ask yourself the question once put to Bill Hicks by a nosy waffle-house waitress:

Finding a Niche for Poetry

In the world of publishing, poetry is one of those areas where bigger is not better. Poems rarely excite the interest of the general readership, and as such, the major publishing houses will usually decide that any given book in the genre is simply not worth their time, effort, or money. After all, when was the last time a volume of poetry made the bestseller list? When was the last time you saw one prominently displayed at Barnes & Noble?

Small presses, on the other hand, often prove more enthusiastic about printing and marketing poetic works. Whether they are dedicated exclusively to the genre or simply inclusive of poetry that falls under their area of expertise, niche publishers currently offer one of the best venues for poets seeking to introduce their work to the world.

Take, for example, our own Ooligan Press. Ooligan’s specialty is books from the Pacific Northwest for the Pacific Northwest, and we have published several poetry titles under that umbrella in past years, all of which can be found on our website. Ooligan’s flagship poetry title is Alive at the Center, an anthology featuring hundreds of contemporary Northwest poets. Nominated for the 2014 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award, Alive at the Center is available as a single volume, or divided into three smaller books according to the three major cities that the writers call home: Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver.

Then there’s Copper Canyon Press, also located here in the Northwest. Copper Canyon is a nonprofit indie publisher that dedicates itself solely to the poetry genre, operating under the motto, “Poetry is vital to language and living.” (“All poetry, all the time” was presumably deemed too cliché.) The press prints and distributes paperback collections from an international array of talented poets in over fifteen different languages. Forty-three of its titles so far have won various awards, prizes, and other literary honors.

Another small not-for-profit publisher offering a notable selection of poetry is Graywolf Press. Originally founded in Washington State with a focus on printing volumes of hand-bound, letterpressed poems, Graywolf has since moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, and branched out to include novels, memoirs, short story collections, and essays. A significant chunk of their bestsellers and award-winners, however, still come from their poetry list. Most recently, two of Graywolf’s titles have been named as finalists for the 2014 National Book Award in poetry.

This is, of course, hardly an exhaustive list—there are many more small presses in the world of anglophone publishing with an interest in poetry. These indie publishers go above and beyond merely accepting more submissions from this genre than the big houses; they aggressively market their poetry titles, constantly strive to win awards and accolades, and exploit every opportunity to promote and nurture interest in the art of poetry. Thanks to the efforts of niche publishers, the poetry genre will quietly continue to survive, and even thrive, at the margins of today’s overcrowded, cutthroat market.