There seems to be a trend and maybe it will hit the tipping point and something good will happen for the poets out there bouncing from one adjunct position to another, getting by without job security or health insurance. First there was this plea to the Poetry Foundation for a financial commitments to poets. Last week guest author Charles Coe posted this open letter to poetry presenters suggesting that poets have a right to expect financial compensation when they share their work. Now comes a proposal from poet Joe Weil, which he posted on facebook. He agreed to let me share it here and urged me to let it be known that he's interested in improvements that might take his proposal from idea to reality:
I want to start an alliance of non-tenured poets. I'd need a lawyer to handle the incorporation pro bono (there are poet/lawyers) and I'd need members. It would work as follows: dues would be 20 bucks a month. Three quarters of that would go to reading series who agree to host only ANTP members for at least half their reading season. They could use our funding only on ANTP members. The rest of the funds would be invested into a retirement home. If a member became tenured, they could remain in the alliance by agreeing to pay extra dues of 40 dollars a month. Otherwise, they would withdraw as a member in good standing. At a thousand members strong such a union would be a powerful force for the following:
1. Fostering a funding system outside the power structures which have shown themselves to be closer to the 1 percent than to any true spirit of egalitarianism.
2. Assuring that poets could travel and read with at least a modicum of dignity and remuneration for their troubles.
3. Setting an example for America that cooperative actions by-passing the corparia are still possible.
4. Letting the Academy know, especially the NEA and the Poetry Foundation that they have fallen down on the job and have failed miserably to fund anything but their cronies.
Criteria for being admitted in ANTP:
1. Either a book or chap book published by a press during the past six years or
2. A resume showing one has featured in at least ten readings over the last three years.
3. A day job, or a non-tenured teaching position or retirement status with proof of regular support of readings, and at least six features over the years.
4. In liue of a book or chap book, publication in at least four literary magazines over the last three years, and at least ten featured readings.
ANTP will promote ANTP readings where possible, and defend our right to assure the union prospers as an agency of independent funding for those who otherwise would receive little to no honorarium for their troubles.
Let me know if you're interested. I would not be president. I would nominate someone with administrative and labor experience as president and seek a pro-bono lawyer willing to handle us. Let me know if anyone out there has these qualifications and would be willing to take on the responsibility. THis is a good idea. It will probably be ruined by poet's tendencies to kiss up and enforce elitist structures, but I just thought I'd put it out there. I was asked to go to AWP. I refused. I reufsed for political reasons. I don't like what I am seeing in poetry, and I want all readings and series to be funded-- if not by the big shots, than by a poet's union.
What do you think? Please share your ideas in the comment field.