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Poetry is increasingly becoming a financially viable genre    
Thu, 14 November 2019



Entries for The AVBOB Poetry Competition close on 30 November
 
The revival in the demand for poetry is inspiring news for aspiring and established poets. It not only gives them more scope for getting published, it also offers them the opportunity to earn an income from doing what they love.
 
According to Johann de Lange, editor-in-chief of The AVBOB Poetry Competition, there has been an increase in the popularity of poetry and poetry books globally, most notably in countries such as the US and the UK. 
 
Says de Lange, “Book sales are up and more books are published every year. There has also been a surge in popularity of the poetry scene on the internet, with many sites offering decent pay for published poems, and some bigger publishing houses publishing these authors. Poets no longer need to be limited to the borders of their countries, as they can publish anywhere.” 
 
SA a reflection of growth in poetry popularity worldwide
 
Nini Bennett recently wrote on Versindaba (www.versindaba.co.za) – a collective weblog on Afrikaans poetry – that despite South Africa’s struggling economy, it’s not unusual for poems to receive individual compensation, which is in line with overseas trends. She says the South African community is a microcosm of a greater global picture, which saw a 21% rise in the sale of anthologies from 2015 to 2017. “This establishes poetry as one of the fastest-growing genres in the publishing industry,” she says.
 
Bennett further points out that South African publisher Naledi has already published 13 anthologies so far this year, establishing them as the leading poetry publisher in our country. 
 
AVBOB Poetry grows in leaps and bounds
 
The exceptional growth in The AVBOB Poetry Competition, which was established in 2017, is positive proof that poetry in South Africa is alive and well. The first year saw about 6 000 poets register for the competition with just over 20 000 poems entered, shooting up to close to 11 400 poets and more than 29 000 entered poems in year two. 
 
The current competition, for which entries close at the end of November this year, is already ahead of last year’s performance. If the current momentum is maintained, double digit growth is again expected. All entries are submitted online at www.avbobpoetry.co.za.
 
One of the distinguishing features of The AVBOB Poetry Competition is that it is open to all 11 official language speakers, with the winner in each vernacular receiving R10 000 in cash, as well as a R2 500 book voucher. Moreover, every poem that is accepted on the AVBOB Poetry website receives R300 in cash. To date, 8 200 poems have been published on the AVBOB Poetry website for use by AVBOB’s customers and communities, for poets across South Africa, and for all the bereaved across this nation. 
 
De Lange says that it was decided from the outset to compensate poets whose poems are accepted for publication on the website with a decent amount. 
 
“Historically, poets have been worst off when it came to making money from their writing. In many cases, in order to get their poems published in magazines or anthologies etc, they are paid little or nothing at all. Quite often they are expected to do this or that ‘for the love of poetry’. You try that line on a fiction writer and you’ll be laughed out of the pub. So, we were clear that we wanted to address that. We also wanted the cash prize for the best poem in the different languages to be substantial. The growth we see year-on-year, as well as the feedback we get from poets, proves how successful this project is.”
 
Bennett says technological advancement and the use of multimedia functions play a significant role in the revival of poetry. “The new international fad is to put poems on Instagram (the so-called ‘Instapoets’).  Plus, not too long ago, things were still abuzz with the work of the Twitter-poets,” she explains. “Thousands of readers worldwide wait daily for their dose of online poetry that can be read on a cell phone. And thanks to the shareability of websites and media platforms, poetry has become a consumer-friendly commodity which aids the reading and distribution of poets’ work within seconds.” 
 
To enter the latest AVBOB Poetry Competition, visit www.avbobpoetry.co.za. The competition closes on 30 November 2019.


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