The Australian poet Kate Middleton, who was recommended to us by our friend Alan Wearne, has written a brief for poetry -- and for the physical book. Although the very existence of these things is widely thought to be under threat, they will survive, she writes, because of their "brilliant design." Here is an excerpt from "The Future of Poery."
The `Future of Poetry´ is something I often hear discussed – usually in hushed tones, suitably sombre for the doom and gloom being posited. I understand the reasons for the doom and gloom that fuels the opinion that poetry is dying: it´s not a lucrative product. As the first `Sydney City Poet´ I have recently been given one of the few jobs in Australia that contains the word `poet´ in the job title, and even with its designation as `part-time,´ it´s still not a large allowance. People don´t buy a lot of poetry, and, if Marianne Moore is to be believed, a few poets even claim to dislike it. I think about the numbers sometimes, and I too despair: especially when I realise that in Australia we´ve really got a pretty good deal. I just spent four years in the United States where there is so little funding available and really so very many writers. In America there is a glut of literary journals and small presses, and yet people still find it difficult to get work published, let alone read. The most common way a first book gets picked up is through winning a competition: poets will often enter many competitions, paying $25 or $30 to get their manuscript in front of an editor´s eyes, before the book is finally picked up. In Australia it´s still difficult for the poems and manuscripts to settle into the right places, but when I look at the struggles other friends have, I am exhausted.
In addressing the topic of this forum, first, I´m going to admit that I envisage our future readers as a relatively small group. I´m not bewailing this, but I am coming to realise that I don´t just read an unusual amount of poetry, but I read an unusual amount in general. I gain delight from books that other people may find elsewhere: film, good television, cooking, walking. I can understand that people might get home and want to watch something or listen to music instead of curling up with a book. In fact, I do these things too, far too often.
Kate Middleton's Fire Season (Giramondo, 2009) won the Western Australian Premier´s Award for poetry in 2009. In September 2011 she became the inaugural Sydney City Poet. She was educated at the University of Melbourne and has done graduate work in the United States: she holds an MA from Georgetown University, and an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan, where she won Hopwood Awards in poetry and drama. For more of her essay, click here.