The Barbarians may have been Slightly Delayed

De Neuville - The Huns at the Battle of ChalonsI know a lot of the posts I’ve done have been doom and gloom stories about the dire state of publishing; of poetry in particular, and literature in general. And I stand by my comments: things are very definitely not peachy. New Zealand writers make bugger-all, and poets negative bugger-all. And it’s the same all round the English-speaking world. Our modern Western Culture is all about instant gratification, easy bite-sized bits of entertainment, and preferably stuff that you can read while doing something else. Watching TV. Talking on the phone. Make it quick, make it simple, and ideally make it free. (Pay? You must be joking. That’s like sooooo nineteen hundreds!)

But I just got the most recent Neilsen BookScan listings in the weekly NZSA newsletter, and I couldn’t not share. I was chuffed to bits when Dear Heart spent so long in the bestseller lists, and had watched with great envy as 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry sat in the top ten for what seemed like months. And yes, it’s true that the top two non-fiction books are both religious tracts (well, rugby biographies, which amounts to the same thing here). But, oh gentle reader, take a look across at the fiction lists and rejoice! Two of the top three books are POETRY!

I know they’re both from Good-Keen-Man style poets; blokey-poets, rugged, staunch, footie-playing, pig-killing, blokes’-blokes poets, but still. They. Are. Poetry. Books. And. They. Are. Actually. Selling.

Maybe there’s hope for us yet.

(Anyone got Ritchie McCaw’s address? Maybe I could send him a copy of The Summer King … it’s the right colours, and the title poem is about killing a pig. Richie? Rich? Mate?)

For a poem that seems delightfully apt, go have a read of Waiting for the Barbarians by C. P. Cavafy , on the Poetry Foundation website.

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