Now that the Internet has become the central meeting point for anyone who wants to publish, discuss, or criticize poetry year-round, National Poetry Month has publishers pumping up their online promotions.
Poets.org, the Web site of the Academy of American Poets (founder of National Poetry Month), showcases works by many houses with a program in which publishers make a donation to the Academy and then have their books featured on the spring books list (there are 180 titles on this year’s list). The publishers pick three sample poems from each book and the Academy picks one of the three to feature on the site. From all the poems sent in, it chooses 31 to send out by e-mail over the course of the month through the "poem-a-day" program, which currently has over 20,000 subscribers. Robin Schaer, the Academy's Chief Online Editor, said that last April's books list was viewed 16,916 times. There were also 20,978 click-throughs from Poet.org to Amazon.com, resulting in the sale of 607 books, a not insubstantial number for poetry.
Blogs have become hip avenues for communication within the poetry scene and, increasingly, publishers are getting in on the action. Aside from acting as a sponsor of the Academy’s site, HarperCollins, whose Ecco imprint is a major publisher of poetry, is focusing on its ongoing poetry blog, cruelestmonth.com , which was started in December 2005. Michael Signorelli, editorial assisstant and Ecco’s principal poetry blogger, said the site will feature photos and reporting from a variety of poetry events, as well as other kinds of original content, such as interviews with poet Mark Doty, Ecco editor Daniel Halpern, and even editors from other houses. Ecco will also sponsor weekly giveaway contests with its current poetry titles (it recently had a who-can-write-the-best-last-Charles-Bukowski-poem competition, the winners of which received Ecco’s new Bukowski Collection).
FSG decided to get into the blogging game this year with fsgpoetry.com, which will only run for the month of April. "The whole point of the blog is to make poetry more accessible to people who don’t get to hang out with famous poets like Paul Muldoon," said Ami Greko, publicist, events coordinator and now blogger. Greko will be blogging throughout the month, and the site will also feature other content, such as interviews with FSG staffers who contribute to the production of poetry books, including a designer, and even the late Ted Hughes’ U.S. editor, Paul Elie, who will discuss the differences Hughes saw between editors in the U.S. and the U.K. FSG also invited the poets on its list into a studio, where they were asked to record one of their own poems and one from an FSG backlist poet of their choice.
Knopf asked its poets to record poems for podcasts, which will be sent out every Wednesday in April. And Knopf will continue its poem-a-day program, which was founded by publicist Nicholas Latimer a decade ago. Latimer said the program had 37,000 subscribers last year. The poem-a-day e-mails that go out to subscribers will also feature links to "a list of on-line retailers, including Random House."
April also brings an unusual collaboration between FSG, Knopf, and a Web site called Quickmuse.com. Quickmuse was founded in 2006 by two friends, Ken Gordon and Fletcher Moore. Moore designed software that captures and records key strokes as they happen. Gordon is the poetry guy. He pits two famous poets—from Marge Piercy to Jonathan Gallassi to Thylias Moss—against one another, asking them to improvise a poem on a given theme. The results are captured by the software and later posted on the site, which also features links to Amazon.
On April 16th, FSG and Knopf are staging a live Quickmuse event at The Strand bookstore in New York. Knopf’s Brad Leithauser will match wits with FSG’s Paul Muldoon in an event that will be posted to Quickmuse and covered by WPXR, New York Times Radio. Said Greko, "it speaks to the idea that we’re all excited about this poetry. This is the one time when we get to enjoy it together."