Tag Archives: bookstores

Poetry FAIL

Warning. This is a rant.

I am getting really tired of physical bookstores — the kind with a front door and shelves and an actual counter you walk up to in order to buy something — and their complete and total lack of awareness to the genre known as poetry. I received a gift card to an unnamed chain bookstore (but take your pick — they’re all the same) and drove to the nearest one to see what they had available. What I found was anything but surprising. While I was thankful that the store allocated two columns of bookshelves to poetry instead of one, or worse, merely a couple rows, the buyer for the store seemed to think that the drama section, which was next to the poetry section, only needed to include Shakespeare, and the poetry section only required famous dead white male poets and a couple minority and female poets.

While I am not disputing the importance of the poets that DID rest on the shelves, there is a whole huge community of contemporary poets all across the world who deserved to have their spot in any bookstore.

Within its four walls the store carried toys, puzzles, stuffed animals, board games, gourmet snacks, and a whole lot of other non-book-related items. Most of the books in the store were from contemporary authors. But the entire history of poetry, including today’s poets, were represented by fewer than ten poets.

Seriously?

There are so many things wrong with this picture — I don’t know where to start. From the store’s buyer, to the literature media coverage, it is no wonder people tell me poetry is a dying art.

Poetry is not dead — the people in a position to make a difference are.

Where’s the poetry section?

While in Bangalore this past month, I went to the Forum mall (which in itself was depressing — yes, shopping malls are now in India…). I went to look for a business jacket, but while I was there I entered a store that had been proclaimed as one of the biggest book stores in Bangalore. It did have books, but it also housed toys, games, and useless items. It was a large store, and books made up half of its real estate.

And so, I went looking for some poetry. I found none. There was no poetry section — there wasn’t even a poetry shelf. I know because I was in such disbelief I walked through every part of the store many times.

No poetry section? Nothing at all?

And it wasn’t like the bookstore was small. Tiny bookstores in Bangalore had more poetry than this place.

There was a drama section, and since I know that some bookstores hold a few books of poetry in the drama section (why I don’t know), I looked there. Nope. In fact, the drama section was made up entirely of Shakespeare plays and a few Sophocles titles. Thanks.

(As a side note, another interesting thing about bookstores in India is oftentimes they divide their fiction into two categories: fiction and Indian author fiction. And then the fiction section is divided into its genres. So, if I am looking for a a romance novel by an Indian author, where do I look? I guess the Indian authors section. Nope. Okay romance. Nope. Okay time to ask. Oh! the featured section. I should have known.)

Is poetry in such dire straights it isn’t even worth stocking anymore?

Oh, I take that back — look! A poetry section in the children’s area. I could get The Missing Piece! I guess poetry just isn’t for adults anymore…