Rose Tremain in TLS on rottenness:
"Which author (living or dead) do you think is most overrated?
No single author but a collective. Let’s dare to say it out loud: contemporary poetry is in a rotten state. Having binned all the rules, most poets seem to think that rolling out some pastry-coloured prose, adding a sprinkling of white space, then cutting it up into little shapelets will do. I’m fervently hoping for something better soon."
Read the interview here.
I'm not sure about the rotten state of contemporary poetry, but it's definitely in a marginalized state, more marginalized than a couple of decades ago. (Yes, a collection of poetry made it on the bestseller list in the Netherlands, thanks to television of course, and the poems as well, but this is an extreme exception.)
The literary novel might march along that route. And that brings us to the definition of the word "relevant."
There is economic relevance, there is societal relevance, there might be something like literary relevance but it's the latter relevance that has become less relevant.
Perhaps we should ask the old question: how many readers do you need?
Seven, was Norman Manea's answer if I'm not mistaken.
Much of contemporary poetry hovers around 200 readers or so.
We should conclude that it is utterly important that the readers are relevant. In other words: choose your readers carefully.
The future of literature might be: auditions for readers.
They, the hopeful, visit the author in an apartment, studio or a hotelroom, and do they audition.
Some will be told: try again next year.
Some wil hear: don't ever come back to me.
A few will go home with a book.
One person in a wheelchair might stay with the writer forever, at least for a couple of weeks.
Another possibility: no one shows up for the audition. In that case the writer will need to pay the reader.