Poetic Licence

ILLUSTRATED BY MICHAEL HEATH
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The Independent Culture
In an interview with the literary magazine Mslexia, the Poet Laureate explains that he makes only about pounds 5,000 a year from his poetry. The magazine also says that other well-known writers are often unable to survive on the income from their books

How Poets Make Money

While grave-digging, after rainy weather

Always keep a long hollow pipe next to you.

Another poet told me never to forget this.

It will help you to breathe until you're dug out.

When working split-shifts as a kitchen porter

If the waitresses or the chefs put knives

Or wine glasses in your washing-up water

Shout at them. Get stitches and a tetanus jab.

Don't write for academics or other writers

Write for people who don't much like poems.

If they want entertainment, entertain them.

Later, much later, they may buy you lager.

Forget bursaries, prizes or writers' refuges

You need a shed with a bucket, next to a pub

When your mind is empty and the bucket is full

Down tools, borrow money and go to the pub.

While loop-brained or vacant in the public bar

Eyes bloodshot like central London road maps

Never tell people that you have been working

In the real world; writin' pomes int proper work.

Many publishers are sympathetic to poets.

No, I'm sorry. I don't know why I wrote that.

If you want more than 7 to 10 per cent,

Turn over a petrol station and publish yourself.

A number of organisations exist to help poets.

Their administrators are paid more than you.

Among many ways in which to approach them,

"Where's me dinner, slut?" is as good as any.

Public readings, schools-work and commissions,

Can all help to boost your income. And so can

Upholstering sedan chairs or sewing epaulettes.

And melancholy is a dog that rounds up melons.

Don't be proud. Take every job that comes in.

Ballads and rhymes are cages to be brilliant in.

The poet who never sold out never got asked.

Ever tried feeding your kids on critical respect?

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