Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Poems Don't Pay

Writing about Robert Lowell and how his work has fallen out of fashion, Max Liu suggests that "it’s not always easy to feel sympathy for an artist with a trust fund and whose family have their own graveyard." Really?  Seems a bit specious to me. Do we chose our writers by caste? Byron and Tolstoy were aristocrats too and it doesn't seen to have affected their popularity.

No-one- with the possible exception of Alfred Tennyson- ever made a living from poetry alone. Poetry isn't a career or a profession. It doesn't pay. And almost every famous poet you care to name either had a private income, rich patrons or a day job.  T.S Eliot was a publisher, Philip Larkin a librarian, Stevie Smith a secretary, Robert Graves a popular novelist. Wallace Stevens was so much the successful businessman that his colleagues didn't always know that he was famous for something else.

Lowell's inherited money freed him from the grind of the nine to five but it didn't guarantee him an easy life...
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