Pop lyrics vs. Poems

I mentioned the other day about the poetry book I’m working on.

By now I have pretty much everything together, ready to move into InDesign to typeset it.

I ended up ditching a lot of the minor poems and there will even be a few actual lyrics from the oldest maQLu releases I might quietly forget about. The subtitle will say “selected lyrics, poems, etc.” after all.

And I decided to restrict things to the official maQLu era, 2010-2015. Anything newer is destined for a second poetry book to come out next year, which is already up to 30 some works.

Anyway, I got to thinking more about the formatting, probably because my decision to make it all artsy and typographic and graphic with images means it will cost more to produce.

Y’know… the way I might do liner notes for a CD. In fact, almost exactly the way I used to do liner notes (never did a full CD booklet with lyrics present, though, because that shit’s expensive and I’m cheap.)

Versus the very academic way of doing poetry books

with a lot

of white space

and tiny blank pages
with plain black fonts

always in lower case

to show you

just how very humble

these good proper poets

Which are of course very cheap to produce.

And easily ignored by reviewers, mostly being read only by other poets, academics, and critics.

(Plus the poets’ wives and mothers when they run out of excuses to not have to read the damn things.)

And I got to thinking that this milieu of the poet academic with his or her white space pages and pompous lower case text is a fairly new pomposity.

Poetry is one of the things that makes us human. We have been composing and reciting poetry as long as we’ve been able to speak, at least 100,000 years, maybe even a million.

We’ve only been writing things down for 5000 years. And most of what we’ve bothered to write down was just the really important stuff we needed to survive. Or the stuff the people who had the power to threaten our survival considered really important to their egos.

Ergo, most of our poetry has never been written down, it’s been recited. An ever vanishing moment in time, falling away as soon as it was uttered as we move on to the next syllable.

Which is to say, real poetry is more like song lyrics and it always has been. It’s only a recent blip that has changed that and praised the academic poets while shitting on the pop artists whose lyrics are actually more in keeping with the historical position of poetry in our lives.

And as the Serious Poets™ have delved farther and farther into academic with their heads wedged farther and farther up their own assholes looking for ever more white space to surround their ever-dwindling relevance to society, it is the songsters who are once again the dominant force of actual poetry.

I think Andy Taylor said in his autobiography that the Duran Duran reunion album Astronaut sold about a million copies worldwide when it was released 15 years ago. Let’s say half those people listened to all the songs and not just the more poppy singles up front.

That means there’s probably half a million people who would be familiar with the poetry frontman Simon Le Bon wrote for the last song on the album, “Still Breathing.”

And that’s for a deep cut on an album the record label considered a miserable failure.

Meanwhile, what does it take to be a “best-selling poet” nowadays? From what I’ve seen, there are a handful of internationally known poets who might be able to move 100,000 copies of a new poetry book. Most will sell absolutely zero copies (outside of the copies they bought themselves to hand out).

I saw one blog post talking about a poetry book which is being taught at universities that has sold maybe 500 copies over 5 years. And that was deemed good seller, many others are more like 50 copies in that time, if any.

And I hear that if the wretched New York Times reviews your poetry book, it might sell up to 5000 copies… but then those are copies sold to people who read and abide by the recommendations in the New York Times… maybe it’s better to only sell 500 copies, lol…

I also saw a chick on YouTube talking about self-publishing her poetry book and selling 20,000 copies of it… Of course, she’s a YouTuber with an existing fan base of at least that many people.

Maybe that’s just the way it’s supposed to be.

(And I know, it’s very unfair to compare sales for a famous pop act with a not-so-famous poet, but life’s not fair, is it?)

That said, I’m still doing my silly poetry book of old lyrics. Because it’s fun, and because it’s one more thing off my endless to-do list, and because you never know when it might be useful to say I’ve made one.

Anyhow, here’s an interesting little piece on the rift between the academic poets as I call them (or literary poetry world, as this article deems them and the “Instapoets” or self-publishers etc. which would be my teams of sorts: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/self-publishing-poetry-books/

A pox on that bitch who is mentioned as writing the nasty review mentioned in the article, but… well… one would like to see how many units the critic has moved of her own poetry versus how many the poet she ripped to shreds has, and I betcha that will tell us all we need to know.

I know I ain’t sending my poetry book in for review anywhere. People who like what I write or who like the music I used to make can buy it if they see fit.

No freebies for critics: screw ‘em.