The New York Times on Thursday published Thanksgiving poems by state poet laureates while reporting that Random House is buying Simon & Shuster.
Poems by writers like North Dakota's Larry Woiwode, Minnesota's Joyce Sutphen and Mississippi's Beth Ann Fennelly gave reports from the ground about how each state's natural beauty and community spirit are giving hope during the pandemic. Fennelly's "Gratitude," an affectionate portrait of her state's racial affinities and rural culture, was my favorite.
I was also happy to see the 79-year-old Woiwode represented. The novelist, essayist, poet and narrative theorist's career has drawn acclaim from other writers and a devoted cadre of readers. He's one of those "writers' writers" who've enriched American literature with distinctive works outside of the mainstream.
Thanks to the Times for giving recognition to the poet laureates' valuable work. But their careers are more and more unlikely to be supported by major publishing companies as book industry consolidation accelerates. If approved, the Random House-Simon & Shuster deal will mean more blockbuster deals and celebrity books and the neglect of less popular authors.
As fewer companies dominate the publishing industry, more and more authors are shunted aside if they don't achieve widespread success.
Academic publishers like Mercer University Press, LSU Press and the University of Georgia Press and stalwart independents do noble service in producing a range of books.
But more writers will require support from publishers of national and international scope to prevent American literature from turning into a monoculture.