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The Financial Reality of Poetry

I've been getting my poetry published for 16 years now. After publishing more than one hundred poems in literary journals I have received: contributor copies, a check for 7$, a check for 88$, prize money of 100$, 50$, and 25$. When I think of the cost of sending my work out (ink, paper, postage, the yearly edition of Poet's Market, pens, etc.), I sometimes wonder why I continue to bother. I know, I know, we don't write poetry for the reward. But to lose hundreds of dollars, even thousands (if you include the cost of contest entry fees), I sometimes shake my head and have to remember why I continue.

Last weekend I attended a wonderful writers' conference--the South Carolina Writers' Workshop Conference. I won first place in the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award in the poetry category. I would have been happy with the framed certificate with my name and poem's title inscribed. Then someone handed me a white envelope and I wondered what was in it. Not accustomed to receiving much monetary compensation for my craft, imagine my shock when I opened the envelope to see '5' followed by '0'- that would have been enough. 50$ to pay for my gin & tonics for the rest of the conference. Then I saw that second zero. I sat down at the table in a state of shock. 500$ for one poem. Nice. I could get used to this. I'm on my way to having a banner year--I've already surpassed last year's monetary compensation for writing poetry. If I'm lucky, who knows, I might hit the 1,000$ mark.

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Hi Maureen

Congratulations on your win, in every way. What a great surprise bonus!

Thanks for posting your blog, it brought a huge smile to my face thinking of you opening up that envelope and seeing that cheque. I raise a glass to you and wish many more cheques like that in the future.