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will work for food
part 2

Continued from part 1.

American Performance Poetry is really an amalgam of two incredible growth industries - literature and entertainment. Essentially, performance poets are entrepreneurs. Some entrepreneurs are suppliers of fire & water damage restoration services, some are makers of 6-inch sandwiches, some are Mail Boxes Etc. franchisees. Performance poets are purveyors of literary entertainment. Some are very bad at it. Some do it just to hear themselves talk. Most do it and don't know they're doing it. Doesn't matter. It's all a part of one world, one system - the attempt to obtain the proper amount of food, clothing, and shelter to maintain a heartbeat. Simple.

Whatever industry you happen to be in, everyone needs to consume a certain amount of calories, everyone needs to clothe themselves against wind and snow, everyone needs to supply their offspring with diapers and milk. That performance poets are denied the ability to provide for themselves with the sale of their own unique goods and services is a sham. It's a travesty. It's a cultural bamboozling. And we ought to put an end to it.

The Academic Poets have a lot to do with the pickle we're in. Essentially, they have ruined our market with the 50 years of crap that university presses have been relentlessly printing and dumping onto the literary marketplace. That's why books of poetry - even books of American Performance Poetry - are the book industry's notorious "tough sell". But if you take an unscientific poll - if you just ask people the open-ended question "what do you think about poetry?" you will find that a majority have a favorable opinion of poetry in the abstract. They may have had a good experience with a poetry teacher in high school, or had a favorite rhyming book as a child, or they've been to the Green Mill and loved it.

"Performance poets are purveyors of literary entertainment. Some are very bad at it."
So most people have a predisposition to liking poetry. But it's true - poetry books do not usually make the bestseller list. To me, that indicates a fundamental problem with the poetry delivery system. People like poetry but no one buys it.

There is opportunity in that disparity. Exploiting differences in supply and demand is the fundamental way to make money in a market economy. Twenty-five years ago couple guys in Seattle noticed that everyone likes coffee but no one likes to make it. Boom. An industry is born. Some people at Xerox noticed one day that everyone needs copies of documents but no one had an easy way of making them. Bang. Tens of thousands of jobs are created.

No one downs people who work at Starbucks. No one blinks when photocopy clerks get their paycheck. But a poet looking to participate in the economy is a sell-out freako. Makes no sense. Wake up, poets - take your place in the world economy w/o shame.

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