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What the Hell Happened to Poetry Book Sales?


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The Seventh OctaveI recently decided to limit my list of bestsellers to the top 10 books. Here are the Top 10 Bestselling Books for September/October - 2017, in the Fiction, Nonfiction, Children's, and Poetry categories.  Except there are no books listed under the poetry section.  In fact I have not been able to compile a poetry bestsellers list since the January/February Period--even then there were only two books with enough sales to warrant inclusion on a bestsellers list.


I've sold poetry books in September and October but it was one of this title and one of that title.  In the late 1990's, it was not unusual for poetry to be the top selling-genre period.  But that was during the heyday of slam poetry, poetry cafes, and programming like Def Poetry Jam.  Even this poetry forum (The Poetree) was poppin with an active moderator.  Today there is no moderator and it average about a post a week.


I understand social media may have stolen (ahem...attracted) some of the participation and books sales away from this platform.  Still, poetry seems to be less popular across the board.  Did it go through a phase like Black chick-lit and Urban Fiction?


Please share any quality platforms (especially indie ones) that are celebrating Black poetry.  Share any books that you really enjoyed, maybe I'll compile a list for the site and include them in my next newsletter.


Here are the most critically acclaimed poetry books in my database; none are AALBC.com Bestsellers:


Most Critically Acclaimed Poetry Books


  1. The Big Smoke by Adrian Matejka (2013)Rita DIve Poetry collection
  2. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (2014)
  3. The Essential Etheridge Knight by Etheridge Knight (1986)
  4. Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson (2001)
  5. Wild Hundreds by Nate Marshall (2015)
  6. Acolytes: Poems by Nikki Giovanni (2007)
  7. Head Off & Split: Poems by Nikky Finney (2011)
  8. Collected Poems: 1974–2004 by Rita Dove (2016)
  9. Thomas and Beulah by Rita Dove (1986)
  10. Voyage of the Sable Venus: and Other Poems by Robin Coste Lewis (2015)
  11. Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay (2015)
  12. Cannibal by Safiya Sinclair (2016)
  13. Olio by Tyehimba Jess (2016)



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