Poetry, you might say, is having a moment in Canada. It's National Poetry Month so we thought we'd share some of our findings in verse.
JK, we wouldn't do that to you. We'll leave the poetry to the professionals. What we will do is tell you that poetry sales in Canada were up 79% in 2016 compared to 2015, according to our report, The Canadian Book Market 2016. Poetry made up 0.4% of all print book sales in Canada in 2016, whereas in 2015 the category represented 0.2% of all units sold.
The growth is in no small part due to the runaway success of Rupi Kaur's debut collection, Milk and Honey. The collection, published in October 2015, continues to make it on to bestseller lists almost a year and a half later. Some are calling her the voice of the millennial generation. That a Canadian poet is boosting sales of poetry in Canada warms our little hearts.
But, even if you take out all the units that Milk and Honey sold in 2016, the poetry category would still be up 20% over 2015.
As you can see in the graph below, poetry sales had been fairly consistent in the five years from 2011 to 2015. We see a relatively flat rate of sales until the winter, when there is a rise in all book sales around the holidays. That trend continued in 2016 as well.
It is somewhat surprising, possibly, that there isn't more of a spike in February for sales of poetry books. Maybe Canadians just aren't romantic in a book-of-love-poems way. Perhaps we like our poems to be out of the Book of Longing or Love and Misadventure.
Which segues us quite nicely into the top-selling poetry titles from 2011 to 2016. Spoiler alert: both of those titles make the list.
- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Whiskey Words and a Shovel II by r.h. Sin
I Wrote This for You by pleasefindthis
Dirty Pretty Things by Michael Faudet
Love and Misadventure by Lang Leav
- Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen
Chasers of the Light by Tyler Knott Gregson
Lullabies by Lang Leav
Memories by Lang Leav
The Universe of Us by Lang Leav
Apart from Kaur, Leonard Cohen is the only other Canadian to make the list. But, as it turns out, we Canadians enjoy "international best-selling author and social media sensation" Lang Leav's poetry as well. Her poetry collections are four of the top 10 bestselling titles from the past six years.
The fact that Rupi Kaur and Lang Leav both are young, social media sensations suggest that poetry might be poised for a renaissance. We could mention Twitter character limits and attention spans or even the anonymity of social media as reasons why poetry might appeal to millennials (and maybe that is indeed a part of the story) but, like with vinyl records, younger generations may be coming around to vintage art forms for reasons more to do with what the forms themselves can deliver.
So for #NationalPoetryMonth this April, pick up a volume of poetry — one of the top-sellers above or any other that appeals to you — and connect with this art form yourself. Maybe you'll find or rediscover a passion for poetry that you can carry with you all year long.
We wonder if this rise in poetry sales will carry through into 2017? Only time will tell. But we did hear that Rupi Kaur is working on book two, so here's hoping her success, and the genre's, continues.