Like everything else in the world, poetry is a business. Modern poets, and especially slam poets are in the process of debunking the myth of poet as pauper. Poetry is a profession. As with any arts vocation, poetry demands dedication, long hours, constant study and supplemental skills.

The myth does actually have a basis in reality. In the strictest sense, the actual sale of printed poems will never generate enough money to cover living expenses. It is the supplemental revenue streams such as: lectures, workshops, readings, awards, grants, and performances which generate income. Most publishers today require poets to make public appearances because it moves product. Long gone are the days when poets can hide in their drafty garrets opening veins and bleeding emotion onto the page.

This primary source for regular income means, that poets must get up off their asses and DO something. It also means that a poet is responsible for much more than writing poetry. Emerging poets must also have business acumen. They must have skills in marketing, financial management, strategic planning and grantsmanship. If an emerging poet puts out a good product and follows up with business savvy, it will not be long before they are either represented by an agency or can hire a personal assistant to manage their business.

Getting your poetry published is a goal to which all poets aspire. Poets who say, "I don't rewrite my poetry will most likely not be getting any publication credits until they figure out what word to edit from that sentence.

Seeing your name in print is groovy, however, it is also step towards generating the necessary credentials to acquire more business for the aspect of poetry which pays. It is a good time to be a poet. Poetry sales are on the rise.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This applies to the field of poetry. Just like perl programmers attend YAPC, poets must attend conferences, workshops and retreats. These events are not just good for your writing, they are good for your visibility as a poet. Sometimes, the established poets at these gatherings have been hired to guest edit a very high profile literary magazine. If they like you, they will tell you. If you weren’t there, you’ll never have known that you could have submitted. Often, people who present or teach poetry are at these gatherings. If they like you, they will invite you to read or lead a workshop at their school, college or reading series.

If a person had contemplated a career as a poet five years ago, they probably would have been encouraged to get an M.F.A. and a PhD so that they could teach. Poetry readings or performances contribute the bulk of income to a poet outside of the academy. Therefore, performance poets and slam poets have been finding new venues in which to present their work. Examples of this include: one person shows, multi-disciplinary productions, commissions for new work and touring. However, opportunities for all poets to have increased. The average honorarium for an emerging poet who has not yet published a book by a recognized publisher is between $500 and $1,200. The average honorarium for a poet who has published a book through a recognized publisher is between $1,200 and $5,000. Well known poets command upwards of $10,000 to appear and read their work.

Grants Grants provide another source of income for poets. Many state arts councils offer awards to poets based upon writing samples. This is another example why the quality of a poet’s work is critical to their success as a poet. In the case of many state grants and other private foundations, poems are reviewed anonymously by a panel of established poets. These grants range between $2,000 and $10,000 dollars. Sometimes, other eligibility requirements apply. The NEA grants – which gives awards in the amount of $20,000 – has an eligibility requirement of 20 publications. The purpose of these funds is to assist in the development of a poet’s career – meaning take time off from work to write and go promote oneself. Writing successful grants is a skill to be learned.

Awards are something for the poet who has managed to get a book published. New books are constantly up for awards. Books are nominated by publishers, libraries, other poets or are based on sales. These awards range from $5,000 to $50,000.

As with any business, quality of product, marketing and solid financial management is the difference between survival or success.

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