…to the publishing world regarding the sale and distribution of poetry books? I’ve recently read several instances of books not being sent by distributors–books missing in action (and these being newly released, which one assumes will be marketed and sold in some methodical manner).
What has happened to the shelves of poetry I once used to peruse at book stores? I don’t mind a book store needing to make money by carrying the occasional novelty item, the occasional desk-top make-your-life-easier container type of item, nor do I mind bookstores selling the wonderful mocha coffee I’m so horribly addicted to, but I do mind the fact that the poetry section gets smaller and smaller, the once solid contingent slipping between the cracks of some CEO’s decision to sell housewares and other such intimate objects rather than books.
The poetry section in both Chapters and the smaller, though more homey Book and Brier keep shrinking their poetry shelves. On a rainy day such as today, the thought of spending an hour or two picking a poetry book from the shelves has lessened to become a ten minute annoyance. After I peruse my way to the out-of-the way corner where the poetry books are hid from consumers, probably so they aren’t frightened by the thought of poetry, I thread my way through the glossy, mass produced books of joy and meditative poetry for everyday thoughts and occasions, before I come to the one shelf of Canadian poetry, on which I might find the Griffin shortlist from 2005, one copy of Anne Simpson’s Loop, and 5 copies of newest Leonard Cohen. Now, this meager selection is an exaggeration, of course, but as a poetry reader/writer, my selection is already quite large, and when I go shopping for a book, I would like to find something that catches my breath, my eye, my curiosity, my interest, and is something I don’t already own, something Canadian, something published recently, something real I can open and close. A book of poems by a Canadian author.
Why is that so hard to find???????????
The clerks at the store tell me I can order these books online, or from the store, and have them delivered right to the store for pickup (in fact, I often do order many books online, but usually ones that I can’t find in the store, or I know they won’t carry in the store). That’s not the point I tell them. This is a book store. I want to peek into the pages of the book, gather 5 in my hands and stand before the cashier like a contestant on a game show (door #1, door #2, or door #3) and try to pick one or the other, or as is known to happen, simply buy all of the above. But choice is something I thought we had at a bookstore. I want to look as much as I want to buy.
As I write this I’m thinking that probably what will happen next is that the poetry sections in libraries will also start shrinking. We’ll have to place our order weeks in advance so they can find the one lone copy of a poetry book for you to borrow.
Sure, this is a rant that can be applied to much of the published industry, and probably more than publishing, but as I sit back home on my computer drinking my no-name tea, I’m getting fed up with stores marketing nothing but their own brand of store.