Editorial: Light The Way Forward

This Issue brings Lighten Up Online to the end of its second year.  During this time we have tried to wave the flag for light verse by mixing the work of established light verse specialists with that of  new names and by welcoming the encouraging number of “proper” poets who have  owned up enthusiastically to having a stash of light verse hidden away in their closets.   
I recently heard a poetry publisher suggest that light verse is much more difficult to sell than the serious sort. If this is true, then it is sad and surprising. Too much “heavy” poetry seems to be written almost entirely for the self-satisfaction of the writer and for the plaudits of fellow poets -- poetry for a tiny minority which reckons that book sales measured in the low hundreds represent success. Yet such poetry manages virtually to monopolise poetry publishing today, even though its publishers insist that it makes no money.
Light verse or lighter poetry, call it what you will, is surely written to appeal to a much larger and more varied  audience. There is no theme which lighter verse cannot deal with and no poetic form which it cannot adapt to. Its more immediate accessibility should ensure its appeal to a wider audience, for many of whom it may eventually prove to be a pathway towards other types of poetry. Many, though, will continue to enjoy it for its lighter self and, if they choose carefully, will come to see that “light” does not mean relentlessly funny and that the best of the genre is often not as light as it may first appear.
So, should it be difficult to sell volumes of lighter verse?  No. A potentially wide market for it exists.  Is it difficult to sell it?  Not if the quality is there -- ask those who have published some of the best of the genre by poets such as Ogden Nash, Wendy Cope, John Betjeman and Roger McGough.
What lighter verse needs is a few publishers who can see the possibilities for well chosen, perhaps themed, collections, properly marketed and distributed. The market exists. The quality of verse is available. Step forward the publishers who say there is no money in poetry. Let them put out a volume of good light verse. Who knows? Perhaps the profit from it would help finance their current loss leaders.