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Poetry Publishers and their Mortgages

The poetry world often displays an implicit ambivalence around publishing: it would consider poetry to be above the petty concerns of money whilst simultaneously bewailing the fact that no one will pay for it. Whilst poets continue to see traditional publication as the only legitimation of their work they will continue to willingly ignore that publishing is capitalism and little else, and we will continue to blunder about in our strange relationship with the literary culture industry. (Blackwell’s Oxford shop recently tweeted “Buy book. Read book. Feel good. Repeat.”, which would be considerably more unsettling if referring to, say, bubble bath or toasters.) Publishers, who otherwise exist (as publishers) entirely in the logic of capitalism, would frame their lack of sales as a symptom of a cultural decline. And poets, who otherwise exist precariously outside the logic of capitalism, seem unwilling to disseminate their work any other way.

This isn’t to say that publishers are Bad or capitalism is Bad; this is not necessarily to portray all poetry publishers as Harold Skimpole; this is to say that a lot of the attitudes which have reappeared following the news of the end of Salt’s single author collections are weird.