This year's Acorn-Plantos Award for People's Poetry (which I administer) saw the number of books entered dwindle significantly, by such a number that I had to consider seriously whether we were doing something wrong or whether the decline (in numbers only? in interest also?) was part of a process we could not control.
I believe part of the fault lies with our publicity. We seem to rely a little too much on word of mouth dissemination of information. I get e-mails that "our" website carries out of date information. (We have no website; somone has published the info on theirs and not updated it.) I have had queries, replied to them, and then nothing follows.
Another member of the committee brought up the fact that most small presses, the ones that publish poetry, are experiencing difficulties due to the current economic downturn. Some have stopped publishing, many have cut down on the number of titles they produce.
I believe it's probably a combination of both. Next year, if the Acorn-Plantos Award is to remain viable, a more vigorous approach to soliciting entries must be undertaken. Let's hope the economy has strengthened and we are healthy and free to expend some energy on promotion.
I take some comfort in the fact that all disciplines of the arts are suffering. In uncertain economic times it seems the arts are the most vulnerable. It is difficult to explain truth and beauty to an empty stomach and a burdened mind.