I was thumbing through an old issue of Thumbscrew, a UK poetry magazine, from six years ago, and an article from Andy Croft caught my eye. He begins:
"Most people," as Adrian Mitchell once famously put it, "ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people". This is of course regrettable, but at least it means that "most people" don't realise the contempt with which they are regarded by so many poets. Contemporary British poetry is not so much a game which everyone can play, as an élite sport played by professionals to which the rest of us are invited as spectators.
It is a stately-home nature-trail patrolled on every side by game-keepers. It is a night-club with more bouncers than dancers. It is a world in which, according to Jane Holland in Poetry Review, "there are too many people out there writing poetry" - an opinion which subsequent correspondence in the magazine suggests is "the private view of most serious poets" and editors "who have to wade through oceans of substandard verbiage on a regular basis to find anything worth publishing".
I can see why editors might feel that way, although I suspect they get some of that "substandard verbiage" from people who ought to know better, from frequently published poets and indeed, the "professionals".
I suppose the subtext of the attitude is that the professionals would much rather people stopped writing and instead read what they (the professionals) are writing, but people won't do so unless they like what they are offered to read.
Although there is a lot of interesting poetry around, you often have to know what you are looking for to find it. I find a lot of poems I read in magazines, even well-respected magazines, astonishingly tedious. Maybe editors have to start publishing fewer poems. Less could be more in this case, a higher quality product overall. If you want people to read poetry, give them something worth reading. That should also improve the overall standard of submissions, as readers of poetry obviously make better writers than non-readers.