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.
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.