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Taking The “PO” Out Of Poet
by Jennifer Brown Banks

—“Necessity is the mother of invention.”

As a popular relationship columnist and features writer for over a decade, I have garnered a great deal of success, and have sustained a profitable business in the process. But, my first love is poetry. It speaks to who I am as a woman— unique, free flowing, real, and nonconforming.

Unfortunately, back in the ‘80s, when I first began penning pieces, there weren’t many paying outlets for poets other than greeting card markets and the occasional literary journal. ‘Dem days are gone! No longer are poets expected to take a vow of poverty likened to clergy. No longer are we the epitome of the starving artist.

In fact, many scribes would be surprised to discover that today’s poet can earn as much for his wares as other successful freelancers in the writing business. Poetry is indeed experiencing a “renaissance” of sorts.

Movies and movements like “Love Jones”, “Def Poetry Jam”, and Spoken Word, have taken poetry beyond the abstract language of academia, to common everyday audiences. Today’s poetry is topical, it’s controversial, it’s lyrical, it’s raw, and audiences from 15 to 50 are loving it.

You can find this art form featured at jazz clubs, bookstores, libraries, art galleries, and even business events.

So if you’re debating whether “to be or not to be”, here are four fabulous ways to get in on the gravy train!

TEACH IT— Last month, I landed a sweet gig that paid $250.00 as part of my city library’s CITY VERSE program. I had great fun, minimal expenses, and for one and a half hours of work, that’s not too shabby. In the course of the workshop, I instructed participants how to create different poetry styles—Quatrains, Haikus, Narrative, etc. For the Haikus, as visual aides and creative prompts, I simply purchased National Geographic magazines from my local thrift store for a quarter. I neatly tore the pages of beautiful landscapes; scenic mountains, animals and nature out, and had the students capture their visual responses on paper. These creative pieces could easily find a home at www.haikus.com. I also shared how “professional poets” are able to garner gigs via creating a web page through www.bookthatpoet.com.

PERFORM IT— Did you know that Open Mic nights and local contests pay handsomely for poetry recitals? I once won a contest at a neighborhood bookstore that paid 50 bucks in books! Being an avid reader, I was really glad that I was able to compete in this one.

PITCH IT DIFFERENTLY— As a self-publishing poet, I have sometimes been able to get my foot in the door at schools for Career Day programs as an entrepreneur. Think outside the box.

PRODUCE MULTIPLE PRODUCTS— The really neat thing about poetry is that it lends itself to so many creative forms of expression. Why not record your work and sell audiotapes or CDs? You can also design your own greeting cards and framed gift items.

By using these tips and techniques, you’ll soon discover that poetry can be a cash cow for your career too!

© Copyright 2008, Jennifer Brown Banks

Jennifer Brown Banks is the former senior editor of Mahogany Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Business Management and blogs at Penandprosper.blogspot.com

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