Monday, June 02, 2008

Responses on Payment and Stipends

I thought I'd cut and paste the comments I received for the question I asked about how much you expect to get paid as poet or your poetry stipend. Though some of the responses were posted by anonymous folks, I've made all responses anonymous to protect the innocent and almost innocent.

Here they are in no particular order--

I charge $1600 for a reading, min of $600 for a lecture or class, and min of $500 for a workshop. I will accept less if for a good cause or if I am doing it to help out a friend.


If I have to travel to a reading, I have to get paid at least the amount it costs me to get there. For college visits, which usually include a reading and maybe a class or two, I charge $500-1000.

For conferences, it varies depending on how much it costs me to get there.
It's hard for me to justify doing free readings that cost me more than $100 to get to.


I find it intriguing that we usually say we "give" a reading; maybe we "give" a workshop, but often it's "lead" a workshop. Is a reading a form of "giving," a "give and take" experience with an audience, is it a job? Do we invest a different amount of preparation, adopt a different tone, "feel" differently about events we are paid (more) for? Do we give readings to promote our book, promote ourself, promote the practice of poetry, connect? I know for me as an audience member, the readings that seem driven to Sell A Book feel the least authentic somehow...the ones where the author keeps mentioning the title and the price and the lonely friend sitting at the cardtable with the book stack....

I feel a little dirty asking for money to read, although I'm so happy to be paid an honorarium--every little bit helps supplement my meager income. I'm trying to get over that feeling. I'm very curious to read how other poets use factors to decide what to ask for in the way of honorarium--.


When I bring folks in I try to give them at least $250 honorarium, all expenses paid, including food and lodging, and a big, rowdy crowd that buys books. This is for a reading and a very casual craft lecture. If there are several classes involved, usually it's $500 honorarium, plus the rest.

As for me personally, it all depends. I don't really bargain. I tend to get around $500 + expenses for readings with craft talks, but I also visit public schools gratis, and I'm happy to read in Youngstown dive bars, art galleries, and meadows for free.


Classes or workshops, given or led, are beyond my current experience. As for readings, I fall into that category of sleet, rain, and ferries to read to three people (without payment). And yes, sometimes that feels hard, although making the same journey to read to that rowdy crowd would not.


This is an interesting topic, Kelli -- I have been on the opposite end where I have arranged for poets' visits on campus. I always feel awkward talking about money. However, I was shocked the first time I told a possible visiting poet our standard payment of $500 per reading and $300 for workshop and she readily agreed, no questions asked. I later found out that was a pretty good amount, although I thought it was pretty low... I teach at a community college where there isn't' a lot of money, but I've heard that even "richer" colleges don't pay much.


I wish I had something to contribute to this topic, because I, too, find it fascinating. Sadly, I don't.

Other than a free dinner, I have not been paid to read. However, I'm hoping that changes once my book is published.


Even though I've been writing poems for roughly 40 years, and have published four books of poems (or five, if I count a self-published one long ago) and have another book forthcoming, and even though I've lived most of my life in a city with an active poetry life--

I've never been invited or hired to teach anywhere, and have been paid, I think, five times for readings -- once I got $20.00, a couple of times I got $15.00 each, and once I got $5.00. And recently I was paid with a $5.00 gift certificate for food at the cafe where I was reading.

Off the top of my head, I don't know what I think a fair payment would be. One way to approach it might be to figure out how much it costs to live with at least minimal comfort for a month, and then divide that by the number of reading and/or teaching gigs in a month. Whatever dollar amount is the result might be a fair payment.

* * * * *

Now, while these were anonymous they did get me wondering if women poets have a harder time naming their price than male poets do? In general, do women have a harder time asking for money or payment -or- do women just feel thankful for being asked and are less likely to realize their worth?

One reason I ask this is because as an audience member at the Skagit River Poetry Festival I had a lot more "sitting and waiting" time where I just relaxed and watched the interactions between the poets and others. I noticed that the male poets were much better of going up to another poet (and one that they didn't know) and asking for something. I watched a man exchange emails with one of the main poets and by the time they left, they were almost like good buddies ready to fishing together.

It's kind of a different question, but I wonder if men are better at the business end of poetry, the networking, the connecting, the asking for payment?

I know I am not what you'd call a "networking" poet (though I'm also not looking to become one), but if I could walk up to a favorite poet of mine (man or woman) and within 5 minutes have an email address and a connection, that would be a skill I could enjoy having. I admired the ability of these men to risk embarrassment, to ask the questions I wouldn't ask for fear of being rejected or looking stupid. I could learn from them.

But that's not me, give me 5 minutes with a poet I like and I'll something really profound like, "I like your work." Or maybe if I really like him/her it will come out, "Your poems - me likey likey." I can become neanderthal girl with poets I admire.

Anyway, I'm a little off track from the stipend question, but I'm wondering if for the most part, this is one of those guy/gal things where I'm not saying men are better at it, but perhaps, have higher expectations than women and these expectations are met.

Any thoughts?


  1. So first off, I have only done one real reading my whole career, and I had to go into my own pocket to make that happen by buying all of the food and drink for the blessed event. Exactly three people showed up who weren't related to me, and they were life-long friends of mine.

    That's right.

    Now the irony is I held the reading in my home town, known as "The Art City." We have three community theater groups, an art museum with 29 seperate galaries, thirty or so scuptures adorning our small town main street, a library which is the envy of all others in the county, but hold a poetry reading and people star calling their realtor.

    Money for reading poetry? Huh?

    As for readings I have attended: I have attended about an equal amount of readings by men and women, and I must say in all honesty that I am equally impressed by both. Maybe I have been lucky, but I have had a great time at most of the readings I have attended in general, and have not noticed one gender being better than the other or my anticipation level being higher for one than the other---except when I personally know the poet.

  2. Again, the business of poetry is close to my heart. Thanks for posting the comments.


Always love to hear from you...and the anonymous option is open for those feeling shy.

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