Though poets and lovers of the poetic arts may not like to admit it, poetry is dying. There’s no way to say whether the death of this once proud art form will come soon or if the end of poetry will be a long drawn-out demise. It’s impossible to say whether poetry will fade from the planet in the next few decades or if it will take centuries before the word loses all meaning.
Statistics prove that poems are losing their place in world culture: according to the Poetry Foundation, only 0.01% of the world population has purchased a book of poetry in the last twelve months. Whereas at one time poetry was a major part of a standard education, few students are exposed to poetry beyond nursery rhymes or a couple of weeks of studies in poetry as part of standard high school literature curriculum.
All that negativity notwithstanding, people interested in writing verse can still use that talent to get money for college. Poetry scholarships may not be as common as grants and financial aid for students of business, math, science, or medicine, but creative writing is still a major course of study at most universities. Poets, take heart! You can turn those sonnets and back-of-the-napkin ramblings into a college education. You just may have to work a little harder than your friends who are headed to law school or have talents in athletics or the culinary arts.
How to Prepare Yourself to Earn Scholarships for Poetry
Liberal arts studies are important. School administrators understand the value of the arts, and thankfully so do scholarship committees and private foundations dedicated to handing out college funding. Here are a few tips to prepare yourself to earn money for college based on your skills as a poet.
1. Write (and Read) All the Time
There’s a classic Vaudeville routine that underscores the importance of practicing any art form. A tourist in Times Square stops a cop and says: “Excuse me, officer, can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” The cop thinks for a second and says: “Practice, practice, practice.” Okay, so that gag is about as stale as jokes get, but students interested in writing poetry should take the underlying lesson to heart. One of the only ways you’re going to earn college money for writing poetry is to be more talented than the other applicants. Join workshops, write every day, and read as much poetry as you can get your hands on.
2. Build a Portfolio
If you’re a high school student interested in using your poems as a way to pay for a bachelor’s degree, talk to your guidance counselor and English teachers about the proper way to build a portfolio of your work. Most scholarships and aid packages aimed at artists require a portfolio, a collection of your work that represents your abilities as an artist. Put together a solid portfolio and your chances of earning cash for college through poetry will increase dramatically.
3. Learn How to Network
Unfortunately, you could be the next William Shakespeare or Emily Dickinson, but without knowing the right people, you’ll never break into the tiny world of poetry academia. Entering poetry contests and talking to professors at your local colleges and universities will help you get to know people who can help you find money for college through your verse. Talent is important, but sometimes who you know is even more important.
4. Ignore the Naysayers
There will be plenty of people who will tell you that what you do isn’t worthwhile, that no one will make a living as a poet, and that you should study technical writing, advertising, or some other creative (but financially lucrative) field instead. Ignore them. Earning money for college through the arts requires commitment, and if you can’t ignore the naysayers, you’ll never be committed enough to get that poetry scholarship.
Examples of Grants, Scholarships, and Awards Aimed at Poets
Here are just two college funding offers available for creative writing enthusiasts.
Each year, the Poetry Foundation hands out up to five Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships in the amount of $15,000 to poets aged 21-31. These awards are handed out based on a national competition sponsored by the publisher of Poetry Magazine. These fellowships are meant to encourage students to continue studying and writing poems. To be eligible for this award, you must be a US citizen with a portfolio of no less than five poems, and you must submit your application and portfolio by March 31st of each year through the Poetry Foundation website.
Poetry Out Loud is a nationwide contest handing out thousands of dollars in scholarship money to young poets. Rather than reward the creation of original poetry, Poetry Out Loud encourages students to study, memorize. and perform their favorite poems, with the idea being to promote the study poetry in the classroom. Funding for the Poetry Out Loud contest comes from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, and the contest itself takes the form of thousands of poetry recitation competitions around the country. Students start by winning at the school level, then move on to regional, state, and national competitions. Awards range from $200 paid out to city champions all the way up to a top prize of $20,000 for the national champion. A total of thirteen national prizes are handed out, which start at $1,000 and move up to the top prize of twenty grand. More information on the contest can be found through the above link.
Poetry is misunderstood, under-appreciated, and under-valued in today’s culture. Do your part to change that by jumping head first into the study and creation of poetry. Applying for college aid through poetry is not just possible, it’s relatively easy, thanks to lots of available funding at the local, state, and national level. Since poetry is, after all, a dying art, competition is often slim, especially in parts of the country where the study of poetry is not a priority, like in rural areas or poor neighborhoods.
Don’t let the naysayers get you down, constantly surround yourself with poetry and books of verse, and follow your dream. Poets aren’t supposed to lead easy lives, so tough it out. You may just end up earning a full tuition scholarship to the school of your dreams, all thanks to the poetic arts.