Buying Poetry Books to Read

All writers should read, especially would-be poets who want to differentiate themselves from the wannabe poets who only read and publicise their own work at the expense of learning from others and developing.  But where to actually buy poetry? 

Recently I wandered into a branch of Waterstone’s, a bricks and mortar shop, and eventually found a poetry section.  This poetry section was full of anthologies and a handful of single author collections from Faber and Faber, Bloodaxe and Carcanet.  Good poetry, but Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, Don Patterson and Carol Ann Duffy aren’t representative of contemporary poetry as a whole.  On the staff recommendations shelves there was no poetry at all, but a mix of contemporary and classic novels.  No point asking the staff for poetry advice.

Borders UK is now shut, but had an unhelpfully ambivalent attitude towards poetry.  On one hand it did stock some poetry magazines, but on the other hand, it didn’t signpost its poetry section and frequently moved it so once you’d found it, you couldn’t be sure it would still be there on your next visit.  Playing ‘hunt the poetry section’ got tiresome, particularly when staff blanked you because they didn’t know where it was either.  So any potential book buyers wanting advice on poetry couldn’t ask for staff recommendations.

Independent bookshops aren’t usually very good with poetry either and tend to be wary of stocking poetry for fear of it turning out to be vanity published or simply not very good.  Clearly brushing up knowledge of local poets and good poetry publishers is beyond their resources.

On-line, however, there’s a wealth of resources:-

  • Amazon stocks poetry.
  • Individual poetry publishers usually have an on-line store, try Salt, Original PlusArrowhead Press or search for the publisher you had in mind.
  • Review sites, such as Sphinx, give useful guidance.
  • Poetry Book Society members enjoy discounts on poetry books.
  • PoetCasting – listen to poets reading their work.
  • Reviewing – if you have the discipline to read and review regularly to editors’ deadlines, offering to review poetry books is a good way of discovering poets or publishers you may not otherwise have come across.

Where do you usually buy your poetry?

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One Response to “Buying Poetry Books to Read”

  1. Crafty Green Poet Says:

    I usually buy my poetry at readings or in second hand shops (this second largely due to better selections being found in Edinburgh’s second hand shops than in the other bookshops round town!).


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