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Monday, December 12, 2011

The Poetry Payout

All poets can agree: we don't write poetry for the money. Still, it hurts to see Rachel Friedman's article "The Microeconomics of Poetry" at New York Magazine's blog cite the following facts (among others):

# of poetry MFA degrees awarded in 2011: 1400
# of jobs available to teach in MFA programs (the only things those grads are qualified to do): 750
Copies of Jane Hirshfield's Come, Thief sold: 2,250
Earnings to Jane Hirshfield from those 2,250 sales (assuming a 10% royalty): $5,625
Number of books by Tomas Transtromer sold in the 10 years before he won the Nobel: 12,300
Number of books by Tomas Transtromer scheduled for printing in 2 weeks since he won the Nobel: at least 50,000

Not bah-humbugged out yet? Read the rest of the article for more discouraging news about the market for poetry.

It's a good thing we don't write for the money or the recognition, or it might really make us sad.


Anonymous said...

Jane Hirshfield would like to know where the reporter got her numbers, and for what time period.

OK, I do know. It is probably from Bookscan--which is, I myself was surprised to discover on comparing their numbers with what my publisher has told me of actual sales, way low. I don't know why.

This does not mean I am getting wealthy from publishing poetry, of course. Or that I write for either recognition or money--so your larger point holds...

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Thanks for letting me know that these numbers are low. That, at least, is encouraging. Happy Holidays.