The Value of Poetry
I’m writing this time about poetry. To my mind, one of the most unfortunate trends of recent years is the decline in poetry sales for university and college courses. (Yes, I do have Broadview’s interests at heart here, but it’s more than that—really!) Increasingly, instructors have turned away from assigning anthologies of poetry or individual volumes of poetry for their students, and turned instead to course-packs or online readings for the poetry component of their courses. That’s an understandable move; most books of poetry (both anthologies and single-author volumes) have become more expensive, and students sometimes complain if their assigned reading totals only a small percentage of a full volume. But the result, sadly, is a vicious cycle. Publishers face larger unit costs on lower print runs and this increases prices further, making instructors ever more reluctant to assign poetry in bound book form to their students.
That might not be such a bad thing were it not for the implicit message it can send about different sorts of literature. If, as often happens, novels for a course are assigned in handsome editions while the course’s poetry component consists of an unattractive little course-pack of grainy photocopies, the implicit message is clear: poetry is not something that one might consider keeping on one’s shelf at home and pulling down from time to time (as I have countless times over the years with The Broadview Anthology of Poetry), reacquainting oneself with old favorites and discovering new ones; poetry is not something one would ever read for pleasure; poetry just isn’t of much importance.
It strikes me as particularly ironic that we so often send that implicit message about the reading of poetry to students even as the expansion of creative writing classes implicitly places an ever-higher value on the writing of poetry.
We at Broadview would like to send a different message about the reading of poetry. Already we’ve made it a policy to price The Broadview Anthology of Poetry very reasonably. Whereas most other poetry anthologies of comparable size are priced these days at $70 or more, the original edition of the Broadview is currently priced at $42.95, while the second edition* is priced at $49.95. For 2014 we’re going to make those prices even more reasonable—bringing them to $24.95 for the original edition, and to $29.95 for the second edition. We want to break the cycle. In business terms, we want to be able to sell enough copies to allow us to keep reprinting in large quantities, thereby achieving economies of scale such that we’ll be able to keep prices reasonable in the future. In cultural and pedagogical terms, odd as it may sound, we’re lowering prices in the hope that this will lead to poetry being valued more highly.
We will also be setting low prices on some individual poetry volumes, including Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book; our editions of selected poems by Anna Letitia Barbauld, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Letitia Landon, and Augusta Webster; and, from our Freehand Books list, Jeannette Lynes’ It’s Hard Being Queen and Ian Williams’ acclaimed Personals (short-listed this past year for the Griffin Poetry Prize).
If you’d like to receive a complimentary electronic copy** of any of these titles (or of other Broadview titles you think might fit your courses), please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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*for copyright reasons available only in Canada.
** If after you’ve had a chance to look through a complimentary e-copy you decide you would indeed like to choose that book as a text for one of your courses, we will of course be happy to send a complimentary copy of the bound book, too.