I’ve decided to issue my various artworks under a copyleft licence. Why? The principles of copyleft are long established in the computer software world; to understand why copyleft exists visit The Free Software Foundation (www.fsf.org).
But why copyleft poetry?
Poetry does not make much money; even the great poets take additional income. Wordsworth was a tax collector; Ted Hughes, a farmer; JH Prynne is a librarian; many more modern poets teach. Poetry is not a stunning source of wealth.
I do have ambition; I do like people knowing about and commenting on my poetry. It’s a reward for all that creative investment, if you like. I want people to hear, read and enjoy my work. That won’t happen if they don’t know about it.
Copyleft is guerrilla marketing and distribution; anyone can copy and distribute a copyleft work as they see fit, subject to the licence. If the poetry is copied, I neither pay nor receive a penny. Copyleft material can reach the world, as the operating system Linux has shown. The disadvantage for the poet is the lack of royalties, but there’s hardly any of them anyway. Of course, this presumes people might be interested in my work, which takes a lot to achieve.
As I said, I’m interested in the long game. I’d like to get my name and poetry known. I hope easily available modern English poetry, which can be legally copied, distributed, and modified, will be of interest in education. If I’m right, then advanced students of English may get to see my work, and hopefully a few of them will get to like it.
Finally, my poetry is up on my website. Even if I killed my website today, the Internet Archive and British Library will have copies of it, and would continue to make these copies available. Anyone with net access can see my poetry without paying me for it. Putting it out in copyleft volumes isn’t really a change to the current situation. It so happens I’d always intended to copyleft my work, so I never had a problem with publishing it online.