Thursday, June 23, 2011

Writing as a Commodity

As part of the Masters course at the IIML I have to collect around 50 pages of worthy material and use it to present a two hour class.
Some of the people in my class have used this opportunity to showcase their favorite writers, or pieces of work which relate to their own portfolios. We've gone through and talked about what makes it good, which parts we like and don't like, and so on.
There have been presentations with articles of literary analysis, interviews with authors, and so on. We've been given prompts or guidance on what to discuss, although for the most part we are willing to take the ball and run with it. After all, we're writers. We all have a lot to say.

I'm pretty nervous about my own little collection, which I will have to hand out in about two weeks time (we get two weeks to read each round, so my actual trial by peer group won't be for another month or so).

Where's the balance? I don't want to be completely dry, but this is a masters course so I can only get away with including snippets of Margret Mahy's work every so often. (When asked to provide poems that have inspired me, I can and will read you the entirety of Bubble Trouble, but you should have read it anyway!)
Plus we have to choose our own topic. Which was a task in itself.
After veering from a vague of exploration of poetics, to the much more fun idea of "the strange and wonderful lives of poets" (which was based around the assumption that everyone else would provide the necessary serious topics in their seminars) to another vague (and possibly insulting) thought that I could somehow help everyone explore "why they write" I've settled on a topic that is close to my heart.
Writing as a commodity. Specifically as it relates to the poets and authors who create it.

This is a vast topic of which I'm only going to be brushing the top. And I don't know how popular it's going to be with my classmates.
I am determined, by hook or by crook to make a living at this game, but not everyone is interested in that. I am fascinated by the sale of words, the consumption of them, the popularity, the publicity, who sells, who sold out, etc. I hope these things won't put everyone else to sleep.

We are supposed to be in the first full flush of our infatuation with writing. The writing is the only thing that matters. We might look for signs that an engagement is a possibility, we might be encouraged to think about an exciting proposal, an extravagant wedding, or the happily ever after.
But, not the down and dirty business of a pre-nup. Nor the compromises on religion, child-rearing, or who gets the remote control that may lie on the horizon.
We might sigh and say perhaps we'll never find that special someone, but everyone will rush to disagree. Oh no, of course you will! Who wouldn't want you?

Well, I like thinking about pre-nups... uh, book contracts. I like to learn about e-sales, self publishing (heh. Now what would be the corresponding metaphor for that?), agents, publishers, publicity, competitions and compromises. Especially compromises.
For example, there seems to be a lot of debate (now and always) on how dumb poetry should, could and does get in the pursuit of readership (and sales).
Is people reading poetry, no matter how "dumb" it may be, a bad thing? Does the consumption of bad poetry take away from the consumption of good poetry? (that's not a trick question, some say it does in very concrete ways) Should a poet ever change what they have written to make it more marketable? Or write in order to sell rather than from pure inspiration? How is that different from changing a poem at an editor's request to fit a given journal?
How the heck can you ever make poetry more marketable?

Hmmm... I'll have to remember some of these for my class. 

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