Do Poets Make Money?
Oscar Wilde wrote, “The best work in literature is always done by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread and the highest form of literature, poetry, brings no wealth to the singer.”
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mr. Wilde, he was an Irish writer. He wrote plays (The Importance of Being Earnest is one of his most famous), poetry and one novel (The Picture of Dorian Gray). He was born in 1854 and died in 1900. Although he enjoyed much success during his lifetime, he died alone and destitute (poor) in France at the age of 46.
Oscar Wilde is just one example of the many “tortured artists,” whose works failed to financially sustain them during their lifetime, but live on as celebrated classic pieces of literature to this day. William Blake, Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost were all great poets who were mostly unrecognized for their talents during their lifetime.
Emily Dickinson, who is arguably one of the best female poets of all-time, was a recluse who only published 7 poems while she was alive. After her death it was discovered she had written over a thousand pieces.
In today’s society there are some successful writers who make a living as poets: Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Robert Munsch and Margaret Atwood to name a few. But for the most part, the words Oscar Wilde wrote over a century ago remain true. Most people write poetry not for the money, but for the enjoyment it gives them. Some writers say they “need to write,” while others use it as a tool to express their true emotions. Poetry enriches the human experience by passing on knowledge and insight that may otherwise go unnoticed.
There are a number of jobs available for people who enjoy reading and writing poetry:
– Teaching is a great way to encourage others to develop a respect for poetry and to encourage others to write themselves. You could teach an English class at a high school, which would give you the opportunity to teach poetry as well as fiction and grammar. A job at a college or university would allow you to teach a more specified class in your chosen field. You could also make some extra money by offering your services as a poetry tutor.
– If you simply love poetry because you love to write, a career in journalism may be an option. You could write stories for the local newspaper or look into freelance writing for specific types of magazines or online blogs that interest you.
– You could work as an editor of a poetry magazine or for a publishing company that publishes books of poetry – or even write for a greeting card company.
– You could work at a bookstore, open up your own independent book shop with a large poetry section or work as a librarian at your local library. One of the perks of working at a library or bookstore is that you can arrange for poetry readings and book signings by local authors. You could also organize writing seminars and book groups.
Despite what career path you decide to take, keep writing even while knowing it may never make you rich. It will, however, enrich your life with the insight and perspective it provides. And who knows? Maybe someday you’ll prove Mr. Wilde wrong and become one of the lucky few who have long, successful careers selling thousands of poems or maybe you will become a Noble laureate in literature and win a gold medal, a diploma and a sum of money (which is currently around $1,100,000 U.S.).