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"A Brave New Future for Poetry"


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Rod Miller offers a view of the state of the publishing of poetry in 2012. He quotes publisher Nancy Curtis of High Plains Press, cowboy poet Bette Wolf Duncan, and past Wyoming Poet Laureate Robert Roripaugh.

Read the article below.

"A Brave New Future for Poetry" first appeared in the August, 2012 issue of Roundup Magazine, a publication of the Western Writers of America. The issue includes a feature article by Rod Miller, "Electronics Changing Publishing Game," and there are additional articles that address trends in the markets for non-fiction, juvenile, fiction, and poetry.


Award-winning author and poet Rod Miller has contributed a number of essays on the art and craft of poetry to CowboyPoetry.com. He has given poetry workshops and lectures at numerous places and judged many poetry competitions. He is a widely published poet whose work has appeared in several anthologies and numerous periodicals. He is author of a collection of poetry, Things a Cowboy Sees and Other Poems, and a chapbook of poems, Newe Dreams.  

Miller also writes book reviews and magazines articles for a variety of periodicals, has published short fiction in several anthologies, and is author of three novels and three books of nonfiction.  

Born and raised in Utah, Miller is the son of a working cowboy and spent his youth working with cattle and horses. He competed as a bareback rider in high school, college, and professional rodeos throughout the Intermountain West. 

Miller is membership chair for Western Writers of America and a former board member. Learn more about his writing at writerRodMiller.com.

Rod Miller has contributed other essays to the BAR-D, including:

"A Brief Introduction to Cowboy Poetry, or, Who's the Guy in the Big Hat and What is He Talking About?"

"Whipping up a Poem"

"The Rhythm Method"

"Five Ways Cowboy Poetry Fades in the Footlights"

"Free Range and Barbwire"

Have You Heard the One About ..."

"Does Slant Rhyme with Can't?"

"Are You All Talk and No Trochaic Tetrameter?"

"You Call THAT a Poem?"

"Fine Lines and Wrinkles

"Don't Say It"

"Get Up On Your Hind Legs and Howl"

"Opening the Gates"

"How to Pick a Performance Poem"

"Where Have I Heard That Before?"

See our separate feature about Rod Miller here, which includes some of his poetry and more about his publications.

You can email Rod.

Your considered comments are welcome.  Email us.


Rod Miller, self portrait


A Brave New Future for Poetry
Rod Miller 

Simplified self-publishing. Do-it-yourself e-books. Small-run digital printing. Desktop production. A dearth of full-service publishers and the rise of limited-service small presses. It’s unlikely authors have encountered so much change since the invention of movable type. Poets are no exception. But, accustomed as they are to narrow distribution, self-promotion, hand-selling, and low volumes, poets may adapt more easily.

“I believe poetry is one genre that may move pretty quickly and successfully into nontraditional methods of publishing,” says Nancy Curtis, publisher and editor at High Plains Press. “Online and digital methods of publishing are great for poets. It’s one more way to get published.” For Curtis, it all represents opportunity. “I’ve always believed that poetry is best sold eyeball to eyeball. Poets determine sales through readings and performances and connections. And now we have new technologies for connecting with readers—YouTube videos, Facebook, websites, blogs, and the like.”

Retired administrative law judge Bette Wolf Duncan of Iowa writes in the cowboy poetry tradition and knows the importance of eyeball-to-eyeball encounters and performances. But, “if the adherents of cowboy poetry expect to broaden their base, they will have to broaden their appeal” through better writing. The best poetry, she says, “is a form of music written for the reader.”

While public performance will continue to be important, and Duncan uses computer technology to create small chapbooks for sale at cowboy poetry gatherings where she appears, she looks to online marketing to expand her audience. “I do sell books over the internet, and internet sales account for most of my book sales.”

Robert Roripaugh, creative writing professor at the University of Wyoming for 35 years and the state’s Poet Laureate from 1995 through 2002, sees a bright future for Western poets amidst all the change. “We are now moving into a period when poets and poetry are receiving more attention in a variety of old and new ways,” he says. “There is a healthy range of Western poetry and concepts of its style, tone, language, and purpose. The current popularity of traditional cowboy poems is an example of increased interest, which also benefits other kinds of Western poetry. I think Western poets and their work will continue to move into the mainstream of American poetry and be more fairly recognized and represented in anthologies, textbooks, literary histories, and studies of American literature as a whole.”

Perhaps greater acceptance will result from growing opportunities for publication. But, Nancy Curtis says, even with all the change, “Many poets still find it most fulfilling to hold a book of their poems. And many poets would like to see their books available in bookstores and not just digitally.” So, High Plains Press will continue to publish the old-fashioned way. She adds, “I love finding good poetry, helping the poet hone it, and bringing it to readers in an attractive format. I’ll probably keep publishing occasional books of poetry for the love of it.”

Come what may, Roripaugh is confident that poetry goes on: “As long as there are humans, there will be poetry in one form or another.”

© 2012, Rod Miller, All rights reserved



See a feature about Rod Miller here, which includes some of his poetry. 






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