Poetry is a strange art. Often described as the art of saying as much as possible with as few words of possible, it often seems in danger of being drowned out in the roar from the information super-highway.
And yet, due in no small part to the influence of hip hop and rapping, poetry has never been as alive and well now as it has been in certain corners of the planet.
None the less, it is a time-consuming art to enjoy and then create. You need space, reflection and peace to get everything that poetry offers. These are not things that are on offer every day of the week in our current lives.
As a poet, who has been composing verse for 40 years, I have constantly been looking for ways to find space for poetry… not just in my life, but in the world.
My first step was to keep everything I wrote… old notebooks, hard drives, publications. Then, as Social Media grew its influence in our world, I tried out Facebook. I published a poem every workday for about 18 months… a strange and herculean task.
From all those poems I curated and published a book of 90 poems. And for fun, I asked musician friends to convert some of the poems into songs, so there was a CD with the book. How old fashioned! A book… a CD… poetry!
These acts carved space for poetry in my life and in the lives of people who became readers.
That was 2012 and now 7 years later, I am using Patreon: a subscription-based crowdfunding platform that allows people who like what I do, or feel it is worth supporting financially, to subscribe at various financial levels to the work that I produce.
It’s a thoroughly 21st-century incarnation of poetry… created in interaction with a digital tribe online. I have gone multi-media, adding images, sounds, videos and music to selected poems and returning to the stage to perform and share my works in person, out there in the real world.
But the challenges remain the same. Before social media, you had to get published by journals and magazines, work your way up to being in anthologies and then maybe, one day, get a deal for a collection of your own work. Gatekeepers litter this road, making decisions that impacted your poetic future at every step.
Now, those gatekeepers are largely gone or irrelevant, but the same challenges remain: how do you get in front of the people who will like your work? How do you get taken seriously enough to reach the platforms that hold lovers of poetry, buyers of work, spenders of money, givers or prizes and so on?
It’s a riddle that appears to have no single, definite answer. More of a one-size-fits-all hit-and-hope situation where there are no real answers. Just whatever you find works for you at the moment.
So right now, I write and publish on Patreon every week. I perform at open mics wherever I can and I have created a one-man show called ‘The Social Poetry Story' where I tell this story in detail, read poems, play some songs on guitar and show images and text from my work.
I use Instagram and Facebook to spread the word, I submit my work to journals and competitions. But most of all, just like poets four or five hundred years ago, I just keep on keeping on… writing. Even while you are trying to reach an audience, maybe make a bit of money the trick, I find, is to not think about it too much and make sure that you just keep writing: getting better, thinking more, growing, experimenting. That way, no matter what happens, you’re happy. You’re doing something good in the world.
Guest Blogger: David Chislett
You can see what I am doing with poetry at: https://www.patreon.com/davidchislett There are a lot of free, open-to-the-public posts. But if you want the really good stuff, you’ll need to subscribe. You can also find me on Instagram: patreon.poet