Poetry is a form of creative writing and expression as old as human language. From the time we had words to put together, skilled wordsmiths looked to put them together in pleasing ways to express ideas, advise, entertain and inspire. From Shakespearean ballads to Japanese Haiku, it’s the rare culture indeed that cannot boast some proud form of this expression.
Nevertheless, the modern poet has gone much the same way of the village blacksmith or the chimney sweep and today seems something almost entirely irrelevant to the way of the world. Like its peers from olden days, it almost seems like there’s no place for a poet in today's instant gratification society.
So How Can a Poet Find Work?
The first thing a poet needs to understand is that, like other creative writers, a lucrative income is far from guaranteed. Sales of pure poetry books have plummeted over the years and it is almost impossible nowadays to approach a traditional publisher to get poems published. But then, if you really want to be a poet the need to write prose will burn in you regardless. You’ll write poetry whether or not you can sell because that’s what you want to do. And then you'll use the same wit and creativity that inspired you to create your work to take it to the world.
That’s not to say you can’t get published. There are plenty of competitions and poetry lovers still around the world and in today’s internet e-publishing age anyone can, with enough effort, put together a book of prose and self-publish. However, just like celebrities can outsell Booker Prize winners on the virtue of their name alone, you may struggle to thrive if you limit yourself to pure poetry.
Making Money From Poetry
As a poet, you’ll need a deft wit and a clever tongue to say what you mean. You’ll need to apply that wit to other opportunities that may cross your path in order to finance your poetry career and the rest of your life. The eternally repeated maxim for creative writers echoes again and again “Don’t give up the day job” and this is very true in many ways, but there are plenty of ways to make money using your creative expressionism.
For example, the messages inside greetings cards always require the creative wit of a great writer to make it shine. A poet might try to find work with a card manufacturer or even set up as a business of their own making and selling unique custom cards. You might try to expand with mugs, posters, calendars and other products that benefit from your unique creations. Many poets also find opportunities for work as songwriters or in other writing fields that can make use of their innate talents as writers.
Formal jobs in poetry are few and far between. If you consider yourself proficient enough you might consider teaching courses or mentoring others. Official posts, like that of the Poet Laureate, are quite rare. The Poet Laureate is a poet appointed by a government or head of state to compose poems in celebration of major state occasions. They also work to raise the profile of the poetic arts in their countries.
At the end of the day, poetry is probably not a path to riches. But as the famous Chinese sage Confucius once said “choose a Job you like and you’ll never work a day in your life”.