Friday Ephemera

Because We’re So Hungry for Modern Poetry

Somehow I question the truth of this.

At least we are according to the aesthetes behind Swansea’s taxpayer-funded art festival Art Across the City, which improves the locals with things like this, and specifically conceptual artist Jeremy Deller, whose work, above, is sited in a car park behind a shopping centre. The press release for this mighty piece tells us, “Deller’s plaintive request gets straight to the point. Everybody and everywhere could do with more poetry.” Likewise, presumably, “everybody” could “do with” more conceptual art too. 

And yet despite claims, chiefly by poets, that more poetry is needed and that the unwashed could “do with” more of it, books of modern poetry rarely make the bestseller lists. The New York Times famously estimated the total US market for modern poetry books as being roughly 2,000 people, the measure of a rare “bestseller.” How many of these 2,000 buyers are themselves poets is, alas, unclear. Closer to home, the Arts Council acknowledged that modern poetry constitutes barely four per cent of the total sales of poetry books, with sales in excess of 200 copies being generally considered “excellent.”