Making a Living as a Poet

Tuesday 21 February 2017

We are pleased to feature a Guest Post from The Society of Authors, in anticipation of our event in association with them at StAnza next week.

"Poets can be reluctant to talk or think about their work in relation to money – it’s a creative pursuit, and the value of a poem isn’t monetary. But it does have a value, and if we believe in this value and want to share it with others, poets and spoken word artists need to be able to make a living doing what they do.

"The Society of Authors has always advocated for the right of all authors to be fairly remunerated for their work – as the Chair of its Poetry and Spoken Word Group, Tamar Yoseloff, has argued, ‘poems are crafted objects … [and] the time and effort given in their making should be considered’.

"This doesn’t mean that poetry and performance must be commodified like any other product – but it is important to think about the ways in which its makers can secure their own livelihoods.

"The Society of Authors Poetry and Spoken Word Group’s series of events on ‘Making a Living as a Poet’ addresses this problem, through practical discussions with poets and spoken word artists across the UK, each with their different experiences of managing to make poetry pay.

"At its first event in London, Tamar Yoseloff spoke to Julia Bird and Tom Chivers, two poets who also run poetry-related businesses (Jaybird Live Literature, a production company that tours theatricalised poetry shows, and the arts company Penned in the Margins, which produces live performances and publishes experimental literature). Both suggested practical ways in which their audience could look beyond words on the page – to think about using new forms, social media, spoken word and visual art.

"In association with StAnza, Ken Cockburn will be talking to two more poets who work not only in poetry, but in various related fields and jobs that in turn support their writing (and help them pay the bills).

"Sarah Hesketh has balanced her poetry writing with a successful career as a project manager and literature developer, and was shortlisted for the 2014 Kim Scott Walwyn Prize, which celebrates women in publishing. Her commissions and residencies include working with Age Concern and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, and the work she produced following these experiences – her collection The Hard Word Box (Penned in the Margins, 2014) and the sequence of poems ‘Grains of Light’ – were influenced by conversations and interviews from her time at both organisations.

"Harry Giles is a performer, poet, game-maker and ‘general doer of things’. Tonguit (Freight Books, 2016) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, but they also have a background in spoken word and live art performance – winning the 2009 BBC Scotland slam championship and touring shows across Europe. Their work also takes place online, and they are involved in a number of arts organisations, including the Forest Café in Edinburgh and the newly-formed The Workers Theatre.

"All three poets make a living by being something more than poets, and will offer attendees practical career advice and a genuinely useful perspective on poetry’s place within a culture and an industry that often needs to be negotiated into rewarding its creators.

"For more information about the work of the Society of Authors Poetry and Spoken Word Group, visit"

Making a Living as a Poet will be in the Supper Room at the Town Hall, Queens Gardens on Friday 3 March, 11.30am-12.30pm. Book tickets on our booking page.