It's a big question with more than one good answer.
Without an 'in' as an MFA or money to enter contests, even good poets can languish forever without much hope. Even if you are a chosen one and get a contract, it's years off and has limited saleability anyway.
Here's a good page on thoughts of others (some well known)
I have almost a dozen 24-30 pages chapbook I've kinko'd (actually most recently Staples- MUCH cheaper) and I've decided I want something a little more substantial.
I'm going to publish a P.O.D. book at Lulu.com. It will contain my poems about women, women's stories, daughters, mothers, you know. Why those poems?
1) They've always been popular
2) many of them have been published
3) I have a LOT of them
4) when I took a workshop with Denise Duhamel this summer, she said the ones I had there were some of my best work.
I'm still in the set-up phase, it will take at least a month. I haven't got the money for an ISBN right now but maybe I'll get some extra jobs between now and whenever and be able to include that. I know a number of poets who don't bother, the poet has to do all the leg work, publicity, marketing anyway.
Sure there are some small houses out there, but no one really local who can get me what I want (and lord knows no one wants poets anyway).
What's the worst that can happen? If I'm not happy, I drop the whole thing. If I like it I will sell a few and some people might enjoy my poems.
I can hear some academic types clicking their tongues because it won't be a REAL book, it might keep me from entering some contests and all that- but the truth is I may as well buy lottery tickets with the money I'd spend on contests- I'm more likely to succeed!
So keep an eye on this page and see what happens.