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This report is taken from PN Review 243, Volume 45 Number 1, September - October 2018.

At the Poetry Summit Nicholas Murray
‘The Season has been a very bad one for new Books,’ John Clare’s publisher John Taylor wrote to him à propos of The Shepherd’s Calendar, published in 1827 and selling only four hundred copies by 1829, ‘& I am afraid the Time has passed away in which Poetry will answer... the Shepherd’s Calendar has had comparatively no Sale... I think in future I shall confine my Speculations to works of Utility.’1

Nearly two hundred years later it seems that poetry’s time has far from passed away according to statistics presented at the recent Poetry Summit at the London Book Fair organised by the Poetry Book Society/Inpress and National Poetry Day. Slide after slide from the book trade’s leading experts confirmed that poetry sales last year overtook ‘works of utility’ – and indeed all other categories bar ‘politics and government’ – to show the highest percentage growth in the entire book business. Talk of a poetry boom can no longer be contradicted if the evidence is its aggregate sales figures.

The Nielsen Bookscan pie chart confirmed that in 2017 poetry sales were worth 38.2 million and had increased in volume by 38.8%. Oliver Mantell of The Audience Agency, although conceding that there has been ‘very little research on the consumption of poetry’ asserted that 3.1% of the population claims to have written poetry in the last twelve months. That’s 1.4 million people.  André Breedt of Nielsen added that, with one hundred and thirty eight poetry venues and three thousand and eighty-one poetry events put ...

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