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This article is taken from PN Review 95, Volume 20 Number 3, January - February 1994.

The Death of the Reader Matthew Francis

Something new is happening in British literature. People who have always said they would write a novel some day are actually sitting down to write it. If they don't know how, they are going to evening classes or residential courses to learn, or enrolling in creative writing degree courses. If novels seem too forbidding, they can try poetry. There are plenty of competitions offering attractive prizes (up to £5000) and little magazines offering publication. The magazines may not last beyond a couple of issues, but new ones take their place. An industry is evolving to meet the public demand to write. Magazines giving advice on how to market your writing are on sale in the High Street. Competitions are an attractive business proposition for organizations hoping to promote poetry, and established poets can supplement their income with the judging fees.

The creative writing industry is meeting a need that has always been there, but which, until now, it has not been thought quite respectable to satisfy. Writers' manuals and the classified advertisement columns of magazines still warn against the dangers of vanity publishing, but new technology has made it almost impossible to define. With a little financial assistance, anyone can publish a magazine or a book of poems. There is no longer an Us and Them in the publishing industry.

The explosion of creative writing ought to be good for poetry. It is certainly good for established poets, who are able to make money as ...


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