Poetry for Peanuts

Alex Pryce seeks out poetry for less than a fiver.


If you want to explore the great world of poetry, luckily you can go far with just a pocket full of change. You could spend around £600 on a week long creative writing course, trade a ten pound note and some coins for a single volume collection or invest unspeakable amounts in a delicious hardback Collected volume. However, poetry isn’t really an expensive passion and with these tips you can get plenty for less than a deep sea diver (fiver).


Poetry magazines are a fantastic way to get hold of some really contemporary poetry on a budget. The small press scene in the UK is thriving into the digital age, but getting a published poetry journal in your hands is still a wonderful and cheap thrill. Subscriptions average at around £10 to £20 a year, and for that you will probably get between two and four issues. However, before you commit I’d recommend trying before you buy. To do this you can buy single issues, or even get a sample one for free or for the cost of the postage. You can also read copies at the National Poetry Library if you’re in London!

You might find poetry magazines stocked in your local literary bookshop. Sadly, you might not, and if you don’t you might suggest the poetry buyer order in some poetry magazines. Don’t despair though – there are a number of different ways to get hold of that magazine you desire. You can search online and order them there.


Poetry pamphlets (or chapbooks as some people call them) are shorter versions of collections, sometimes released by emerging poets on their way to fuller publication or by established poets with a particular sequence to air. Just because a pamphlet is slimmer than a slim volume on the Atkins diet does not mean you won’t be getting your money’s worth. The best things about pamphlets are that they rarely cost over five pounds and by buying one you get that feel good factor that comes from supporting one of the UK’s remarkable small presses. In the past year I’ve enjoyed pamphlets from Happenstance (£4 each), Donut Press (£5 each) and tall-lighthouse (£4 or less). There are other pamphlet presses too, some of which are listed at the end of this page.

You can order most pamphlets direct from the publisher and their website, but if you don’t have a debit card you can bring the ISBN number and book details to a good bookshop and they will happily order it in for you.

Second hand bookshops

Not just the preserve of dog-eared romantic fiction and musty by-gone bestsellers, second hand bookshops often have a stash of slashed price poetry somewhere in the gloom. This is a good opportunity to find gems like anthologies, collected editions and prize-winning collections, all second-hand. If you already have some books you can probably trade them in, get a credit note and blow it all on poetry. I don’t recommend trading in someone else’s books.

If you are truly lucky, as I was last week, you might even find a signed first edition sitting unassumingly on the poetry shelf. Bring such finds quietly to the till, pay the paltry fee and celebrate outside.

Newspaper supplements

Somewhere between the TV listings and the rugby results, the good broadsheets have an arts and culture section. This will maybe only have one or two actual poems in it, but is still worth looking through before adding to the recycling bin. Book reviews are a good way to gauge whether you’d like to read something just released and interviews and articles by published poets are illuminating. The Times Literary Supplement is probably the most famous of all in the UK, and it is published separately from the paper once a week and costs £2.70 at the newsstand. On a Saturday The Guardian has a Review section (usually sandwiched behind the Family pages) also has lots of literary culture to get your teeth into.

Poetry Events

Getting out is a good thing, I’m told. Poetry readings, slams, open mike nights and creative writing workshops happen up and down the country every single evening and are a great place to hear poetry, talk about poetry and meet like minded individuals. They are also often £5 or thereabouts, especially if you ask for a concession. And poetry enthusiasts will be only too happy to welcome a young person into their midst, so don’t be shy.

You might find events in your area advertised in any local arts listings or on the notice board of your library. There are websites with listings for poetry events too, such as the National Poetry Library and Write Out Loud. Poetry Kit also has a very comprehensive list of regular events and Poetry London’s website has a great listings section. Here at The Poetry Society we do our best to keep you updated too, with a packed calendar at the Poetry Café.

Of course, where there are published poets reading, there is often also the chance to buy their book. This might mean the evening ends up costs more than £5, although I do not think that is a bad thing.

Write Your Own

For the price of some paper and a pen you can get some poetry of your own written. The quality of this is sadly not guaranteed and I’m afraid there is no money back if you aren’t satisfied. However, surely one of those beautiful notebooks available in most stationers might help you on your way to the laureateship.

Youth Membership of the Poetry Society

Ok, I’ll be honest, this isn’t £5 or less but even the most tight fisted must admit this is a very good deal. You get an invaluable information pack, a selection of poetry books, a set of ‘Poems on the Underground’ posters, members only opportunities, a quarterly copy of Poetry News, invitations and discounts on poetry events and the right to submit to the YM online poetry magazine for youth members. All that! For £20!

The small print is that you do have to be between 11 and 18, and not a bitter 20-something like me.

So, as you see you can have a multitude of poetic joy for no more than a measly and crumpled five pound note. This is less than the price of Justin Bieber’s latest album or a large Big Mac meal, but the choice is yours.

Alex Suggests Twenty Poetry Magazines (please note that this article was published in 2011 and some of these magazines may now have closed or increased their price):
You can find details about more poetry magazines on our Poetry Opportunities page.

10th Muse – £3.50
Acumen – £4.50
Borderlines – £2.50
Brittle Star – £7 for 2 issues
Candelabrum Poetry Magazine – £3
Chroma – £4.95
Erbacce – £3.50
Fire – £4
Global Tapestry Journal – £3
Monkey Kettle – £1
Moodswing – £2
Neon Highway – £3
Obsessed with Pipework – £3.50
Orbis – £5
Poetry Scotland – £1
Smiths Knoll – £5.00
The Interpreter’s House – £3.50
The Coffee House – £2.50
The Wolf – £5

Alex Suggests Ten Pamphlet Presses:

Donut Press
Nine Arches Press
Oyster Catcher Press
Tall Lighthouse

The Many Press

Alex Pryce is 22 and was born in Northern Ireland but is now a student in Oxford. She records poets reading their own work for a nationwide poetry podcasting project, PoetCasting. She enjoys writing poems and writing about poetry.

Published March, 2011

2 thoughts on “Poetry for Peanuts

  1. Aaah, I love second-hand bookshops! 🙂 Get all sorts of kooky little treasures, sometimes with dedications for Valentine or something 😛 I use abebooks.com to buy from second-hand bookshops from home. I buy a lot of poetry books from Halycyon Bookshop in Greenwich, London 🙂

  2. The Russians for depth of passion and sororw, strong, vivid imagery : Anna Akhmatova, (and others are found in The Shalford Book of 20th c Russian Poetry , translated by Richard McKane); more recently, Birdsong of the Seabed’ by Elena Shvarts translated by Sasha Dugdale (Bloodaxe, 2008) for her surrealistic vision.Sujata Bhatt I don’t know if she fits your criteria as she writes in English and is published by Carcanet so presumably is well-known in the UK but she was born in India,(her mother tongue is Gujarati) educated in USA and lives in Germany. I choose her for a different world view, elusive, subtle use of language and vivid imagery.Lorna Crozier a Canadian witty, elegant, with a sense of humour a voice which is fresh air but whose subject matter bites.

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