Round table participants:
Some of Ms. Addonizio's Poetry
Founder and First Editor:
The Alsop Review
Some of Mr. Alsop's Poetry
Some of Ms. Barnet's Poetry
Founder and Editor:
Salt (a print publication)
Some of Mr. Kinsella's Poetry
Founder and Editor:
Some of Mr. Slaughter's Poetry
Perihelion's round table discussions
were developed to stimulate
an ongoing discussion
about Internet poetry publishing.
Painting Trees on the Landscape of Poetry
An email assisted round table discussion
hosted by Jennifer Ley
When I was an art student, one of my design professors said something I've never forgotten. "Making a picture is as much about what you leave out as what you put in. The negative space in your picture will help define the positive." At the core, I think writing and editing poetry owes much to this simple theory. Like an editor surveying the expanding landscape of poetry, a painter looks out at the complicated structure of a given landscape and chooses to focus his composition on one specific tree, choosing to paint this large branch, that grouping of leaves. Does this make the part of the tree he doesn't paint lack value? No. The painting is his current vision of the tree and its place in the landscape. Another painter (or the same painter) could look at the same landscape and create a very different painting. He could look at the tree naked in winter, or barely dressed by the thin buds of spring. Or he could choose to ignore the tree entirely, shift his focus right or left.
A recent hunt through my Webster's yielded the following evolutionary structure for words associated with editing: a latin root of e- + -dere= to put or -dere (fr. dare= to give) which could make an editor "one who dares to give."
Perihelion's third round table features five editors who have dared to give the poetry landscape their particular focus and framing. It's a real honor to have their participation, and as you'll see, they're natural editors. They even restructured some of my questions.
1. What made you decide to "become" an editor? Please supply some
background on your experiences.
I didn't. Everything that happened was completely by accident. When I
first got on to the Internet in 1995 the ISP I was using gave 2 meg of
disk space as part of the package. Since it was there I decided to use it.
My first efforts were not much more than a vanity page. My own poems,
poems of people I knew. It grew a little at a time until I seemed to be
spending all my spare time with it. At some point I approached my friends
in the bi-monthly writers group I've belonged to for more than ten years
and asked if they would like to help. From those first meetings came "The
Alsop Review". We were arguing the merits of a poem one evening, whether
or not to include it, and someone said to me "Well then, you decide.
You're the editor!" It had never occurred to me until that moment. I
thought "Yes. I suppose I am the editor, aren't I?"
The editorial board has changed since those early days. Most of the
original people are gone and the board is made up in part by people I have
never actually met. I only know them from their work on the Web and on the
Review. It's odd. I'm as close to them as any of my "face-to-face"
I've edited things as far back as I can remember - handmade wildlife
journals, collections of writing at school, and so on. When I was about
twenty I tried to set up a full-scale literary journal called Canti. I
managed to get material from respected critics and poets, as well as
energetic material from new up and comings. Like many such endeavors, it
fell flat on its face when it came to raising the necessary funding. But I
learnt a valuable lesson (or three) and when it came to founding Salt in
1990 I did so fully aware of the risks and limitations of producing a
journal. Apart from doing Salt I'm a consultant editor to the literary
journal Westerly, an overseas editor for Overland, and have guest-edited a
variety of journals including Poetry, Kunapipi, Poetry Review (due out in
April), and a little further down the track, The Literary Review.
What makes me want to edit? Well, I guess I've got the kind of mind that
sees things in terms of projects. I like to create connections between
apparently disparate things, both to archive and to stimulate the
production of new work. As a child and teenager I was a great collector of
things - stamps, rocks, and so on.
Acting as co-ordinator or administrator for the Poetryetc email discussion
list is proving really interesting. It's open-ended editing in the sense
that one can influence the direction of conversation, suggest new topics,
introduce new features (such as "Featured Poets") but ultimately you are a
participant, with other members having the ability to "edit" as well. The
"democracy" of this appeals to me a great deal.
Like Jaimes, I never planned to become an editor of anything. I was busy
trying to become a writer! A group of students I knew in graduate school
at San Francisco State used to get together to workshop our stuff, and
then we got ambitious to publish ourselves. As the project evolved,
though, we realized that we wanted to do more than that. We ended up
forming the print journal Five Fingers Review, and published our first
issue in 1982. It contained some work by all of us, as well as Bay Area
writers and some bigger "name" writers we had solicited, who were generous
enough to let us include them. I'm happy to say Five Fingers is still
being published though all the original members have gone off in separate
directions. Anyway, I think one of the things that attracted me then, and
still does, is what John mentioned: creating connections. I like the idea
of taking work that interests and excites you and bringing it together so
someone else can experience it. Right now I'm a contributing editor of the
ezine ZIPZAP, which was started by a former student of mine at Vista
College in Berkeley; she asked me to send things her way. My favorite
project there so far was to put together Yusef Komunyakaa's poems with the
work of Judale Carr, a painter I met at the Ragdale artist's colony. I
love the way the words and images speak to each other. So, editing is a
little like matchmaking, I suppose.
The editorship of PoetryMagazine.com became available to me as I am a poet with a great interest in the
potential of the average man or woman as poet. I have taught poetry to
children and see the potential in all of us to experience, as well as
express, sentiments common, touching, and relevant to all.
I am part of a co-operative of artists and writers who work and live on
the internet and as such am attempting not only to edit the ezine in my
spare time, but to build it in some way, which I am hoping will reveal
itself in the development of Internet traffic, into a self-supporting
business which will further serve the artists and writers it represents.
Through a combination of traditional and still developing techniques we hope to further develop and fund our group of ezines, The
Greenwich Village Gazette (our journalistic arm, whose editor is Rich
Schiff), SohoArt and The Manhattanite (which publishes short fiction
exclusively), all published by New1.com Publications.
What made me decide to "become" an editor? Is editing a motivated
behavior, a function of desire? If it is, then I'm probably somewhere, on
the spectrum of editorial desire, between Jaimes and Kim, for whom taking
on the responsibility of editing seems to have been "a happy accident"
(dislocating a phrase from Rilke), and John who says he has always edited
"things." I think I've always been an editor too; I just never had a
magazine until 1995, the year I started MUDLARK.
What I'm getting at is this: We all have textual repertoires in us, poems
and stories that we've decided, at some level, to accept because we're
convinced that they'll help us live our lives, or at least make it through
the night. The rest we reject.
In the late sixties, I read an essay by Alan Swallow, "The Story of a
Publisher," that tremendously impressed me. My response to it was to go
out soon after, find, and buy a 5-by-8 Kelsey handpress--the very press
that Swallow taught himself to print on--along with the necessary
furniture and type cases, several fonts of type, everything that Swallow
told me, in his essay, I needed to become an editor and publisher. Just
By the time I started MUDLARK I was already more than halfway through the
wood of life--not Dante's, mine. Does that make me a late arrival? A man
who missed his time? A man for whom no one is still waiting? I hope so.
(The freedom of it appeals to me.) Age has its compensations, you know.
Certain kinds of mistakes I'm less likely to make now: the unoriginal
mistakes of youth, such as using a magazine or press as a promotional
tool, an advertisement for one's self and nothing else.
I never did learn how to work the Kelsey handpress. But I kept it on my
work table for years as a reminder and totem of my editorial desire. (I'm
having fun here.) It's no longer there.
2. How does functioning as an editor influence your own writing, if at
all? Has this changed over time?
A lot. Too much. I wasn't writing at all. In the end I had to step down.
Linda Thomas Harms has been the editor of The Alsop Review for six months,
Lewis Gresham a year before her. Jamie Wasserman (originally of Melic Review) is
editor of Octavo, our monthly magazine. Other people help in important
ways. Mike Billard runs The Gazebo with help from Carrie Cerri in the past months, Lewis Gresham and
Wendy Overin oversee the online classes and so on. Lewis Gresham oversees
everything, more or less. My participation is very limited, rather a
bemused bystander, really.
[Ed. Note: As we release this issue of Perihelion, other changes are pending at the Alsop Review. Linda Thomas Harms is resigning from the editorial board effective December 31st. Beginning early in the New Year the Review will once again be accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Watch for an announcement on The Gazebo early in January.]
The process influences me. The desire to create juxtapositions and links
where at first they might not be obvious extends into both my poetry and
my prose. I like to wind threads together, pull them apart, and rethread
them. It also suggests that you might be able to act as both reader and
writer of a piece of work. But that's what one would like to think -
whether it's true or not...
Editing has helped me, as a writer, to understand things from the other
end--how many factors can sometimes influence choosing, or not choosing, a
piece of work. The same with judging poetry contests. Every writer
should spend some time as an editor. It soothes the ego a little.
Probably, too, editors should be forced to submit their work once in a
I am challenged by some of what I read. I see poets trying to achieve an
effect or use a style and I try to do it better than they do, but then
this is true of all the work I read that is of any quality. Also, I think,
there is a certain amount of absorption of style and choice of theme that
one finds common to the work we read everyday. And this is good. We
editors are influenced by the work of developing writers and the best of
the "everyday" poets.
I've always envied my friends who write fiction because their projects
have always seemed to me continuous. They tell me I'm wrong, that it's not
so, but I still think stories tell themselves, have drive mechanisms all
their own. If one pays the right kind of attention one knows where in the
story one is, etc. Poems don't work, don't move, like that for me, which
means that I've had to learn to live between times, between poems, by my
own devices. As presumably we all have.
I don't write fiction, and I don't translate (another way to have product
between poems of one's own). So why not take up editing? Unless I mistake
myself, my writing has not been noticeably influenced by my editing, but
my reading has been. I like what Mary says: that she is "challenged" by
some of what she reads. "Challenged" is a strong, right verb for me, truer
to my experience of reading for MUDLARK than "influenced" is.
As an editor, I'm entirely self-conscious about testing myself, my limits,
against the work submitted to me. I remain forever hopeful that I'll find
myself "challenged" as a reader by language that wants to take me places I
haven't been before, across borders I haven't even seen before.
3. When editing a publication, do you make a conscious choice to look for
work of a certain style, voice or school -- or to provide a cross section
of what you believe to be the best work being produced today - or both? Is
there any specific style or school of writing that appeals to you most
Lord knows, we've been accused of it often enough! But the answer's no.
The original writers group/ed board was a very mixed bag as far as tastes
were concerned, and we agreed early on no-one would be invited to appear
on the Review without a unanimous decision. That still stands. And
I think the selection on the Review reflects that decision.
I don't subscribe to any particular school of poetry. I respect poetry
that technically succeeds in its own terms - be that experimental,
traditional, or a hybrid variety. Even if I'm editing an issue of
experimental verse I'll include some strong formalist verse on principle --
to break up the binary (as I like to say.)
I'd never even *attempt* to put together some cross-section of what's out
there at any given time. I choose work that speaks to me. That usually
means it's got duende, heart, guts, something that moves me. Also, I like
poetry I can understand, which cuts out a lot of contemporary writing. I
couldn't begin to judge the merits of something when I don't know what the
f**k the writer is trying to say. Other people seem to get it though, so I
leave the putting forward of that kind of work to those who are better
suited to it.
I think the crucial thing is that the work of the poets represented should
be representative of the society as a whole and not merely of the
educated, that is those whose work shows formal training.
Also, I try to be international in scope, which is not difficult as we
have submissions, as well as readers, from all over the globe.
Trying to get an editorial board, such as the one Jaimes describes, to
come to a unanimous decision strikes me as an incredibly difficult
proposition. It's hard enough for me, just one man, to come to terms with
myself. If writers trouble to read the "submissions" page at MUDLARK, they
know that they're submitting their work to the judgment of just one man,
and that the decision to accept or reject it will be a function of his
opinion and taste, which there's no disputing. They're free, of course, to
decide whether to entrust their work to that man and process or not.
I'm thinking of George Hitchcock and his KAYAK magazine, published in San
Francisco from 1964 to 1984. (I had work of my own in its pages, both
early and late in its history, and so have copies of it in front of me as
I write this.) On the cover of each and every issue of KAYAK this
A kayak is not a galleon, ark, coracle or speedboat.
It is a small watertight vessel operated by a single oarsman.
It is submersible, has sharply pointed ends, and is constructed
from light poles and the skins of furry animals. It has never
yet been employed as a means of mass transport.
Not a bad working definition of a one-man magazine, that. Now if that one
man can only keep himself open to the possibility of surprise....
Kim makes all the sense in the world to me when she says: "I like poetry I
can understand, which cuts out a lot of contemporary writing." In a poem
to his mother ("January Morning: Suite XV") William Carlos Williams
reminds us of the effort that is required of us as readers, and editors:
________was for you, old woman.
I wanted to write a poem
that you would understand.
For what good is it to me
if you cant understand it?
________But you got to try hard.
If I try hard and still don't get it, if the poem doesn't teach me how to
read the poem, a circle I'm always in, then I don't keep it. As Kim says,
let someone else, "better suited to it," put that kind of work forward.
An "E-Note" from MUDLARK that answers Jennifer's question too:
As our full name, MUDLARK: AN ELECTRONIC JOURNAL OF POETRY
& POETICS, suggests, we will consider accomplished work
that locates itself anywhere on the spectrum of contemporary
practice. We want poems, of course, but we want essays, too,
that make us read poems (and write them?) differently somehow.
Although we are not innocent, we do imagine ourselves capable
4. How much does the role of "nurturer" of new talent play a part in your
editorial process? Do you see this as an editor's role?
Not at all, at least as far as the "editorial process" is concerned. But
we all have our favourites. I know Bob Charles has worked with individual
writers he likes. I have, Lewis has. Discovering young and up-and-coming
writers is one of the pleasures of running a literary page. But is it the
editor's role? One of those global questions, isn't it? My honest opinion
is I'd like to think so, but probably not.
If a new writer particularly takes me I'll follow them up. It's essential
to recognise good poetry regardless of where it comes from - new or
established. I don't see myself as a nurturer but I pride myself on
telling people what I think of their work (if they ask.) Maybe I'm more of
an encourager - and I'm pleased to be that.
I guess I do see myself as a nurturer, is that a female thing? I
especially would like to help newer writers, because I've been so
encouraged by established writers who took the time to notice my work. I
know how tremendously important it is, that someone notices.
By keeping our pages open to the less formally trained, I fulfill in part
my obligation, as I see it, to encourage interest by both readers and
contributors whose work is less fully developed and who may be in the
process of becoming great readers, craftsmen, and poets. The "common
person" ought to be able, I think, to see work he or she can identify
with and which will encourage the statement, "Perhaps I can do this!"
We are very pleased to receive many submissions from universities in the
United States and around the world. I hope that I play a role in
furthering the careers of these students as well as the more
professional writers whose work graces our web pages and whose work
serves as an inspiration to all other poets. All of their interest in
poetry serves as a basis for the current "boom" in poetry writing and
reading. It is, I might point out, in all our interests to promote
excellence in poetry, and educate the public in it.
Of course, I look only for the most excellent poetry, as well as the best
work of good poets whose poetry shows promise and conveys outstanding
human sentiment that touches us all. I look for the extraordinary
sentiment of the ordinary human condition, clearly and powerfully
I quite like John's description of himself as an "encourager" and his
willingness, at the same time, to tell people what he thinks of their
work, "if they ask." But I'd suggest that they are always asking,
implicitly if not explicitly, by virtue of submitting their work to us for
our consideration. And we, as editors, have to say no (and no again)
before we can say yes. At least that has been my experience of editing.
(My shadow sits down at my work table with me.) So I guess I'd have to
call myself a "discourager" too, although that's not my intention. I've
been complimented on the kindness of my rejection slips--a paradox, I
grant you, but one I can live with.
When I started MUDLARK I promised myself that I'd keep it open, and I've
kept that promise. By design not chance, I'm unaffiliated; my independence
is both a fact and a principle. MUDLARK will never hang out a "Members
Because I don't solicit work or issue calls, I probably get (more than) my
share of submissions from the hobbyists and lobbyists out there in the
Poetry World, a world I've never lived in. Bad poetry could make cynics of
us all, but it doesn't. Why? I, for one, having read (more than) my share
of it, still imagine myself capable of surprise. And I get (more than) my
share of submissions that genuinely surprise me; finally, I can't accept
all of the "acceptable" poetry that I get. But I always encourage it, even
when I send it back.
The limits of MUDLARK are my own. I do what I can. It appears "frequently
but irregularly" in three distinct forms: single-author issues (electronic
chapbooks), posters (electronic broadsides), and "flash poems"--poems that
have "news" in them, poems that feel like current events.
5. For those of you who request previously published work and/or
non-simultaneous submissions for publications you edit on the Internet -
what are your reasons for doing so? Some poets and editors feel this is a
left-over print practice that the Internet could easily abandon,
especially as many electronic sites do not offer payment. What are your
thoughts on this?
This question really doesn't apply to The Alsop Review since we see
ourselves as a showcase rather than an ezine. We don't release individual issues of the Review as a magazine would. When
we invite someone to appear on the Review, it's permanent. We'll write
them occasionally and ask if they'd like to update their pages, add or
delete works as they see fit. That way the Review stays fresh. But we want
to reflect them as they, the writers, see themselves. Where they are in
their career and outlook. So previously published works are perfectly
acceptable to us.
This depends on each journal. If the editors make it clear they expect
sole choice, then that's fine. Payment is something that will increasingly
become part of internet publication. The onus is also on the author to
declare his or her intention when submitting - that is, whether they are
multiple submitting or offering first publication rights. As long as
things are up-front, I have no problem either way. It's unfortunate that
some people still see internet publications as being all the same, or
having a sameness about them - quality and tone vary as much in the print
media but journals aren't so available in this (printed) form. There's the
irony - it's the accessibility of internet journals that creates the
ZIPZAP has work that has appeared in print, and work that hasn't. I think
the sense is that the Web can bring work to so many more people, and
there's an interaction between what people read on the Web, and then will
go to a bookstore to see more of--and vice-versa.
I read everything we receive and consider it on its own merits, previously
published or not. There is almost complete freedom of dissemination right
now on the Web, and I feel it would be foolish not to consider anything
that is not a violation of copyright, unless it violates my own sense of
Because MUDLARK is "An Electronic Journal of Poetry & Poetics" it will
never be in print, as such, and for that same reason it will never be out
of print either. Hence its trademark: "never in and never out of print."
MUDLARK exists in that liminal space. (No need to theorize it here.)
Otherwise, editorial practices are the same or different, in ether or
print, as the editor likes.
6. How might editors on the Internet work together to provide some form of
funding base for electronic poetry sites and increased public awareness of
the Internet poetry community? How could the poets help them?
This seems like a three-part question so I will answer it as such. 1. I
don't know of any way there could be a funding base although I'd be
willing to listen to any ideas. 2. I think the "lack of public awareness"
of the Internet poetry community is greatly exaggerated. Anyone who has a
computer and access to the Internet knows we're here. Those who don't -
don't care anyway. 3. Poets help us all the time, simply by allowing us to
publish their works.
Internet poetry may still be looked down upon by the legitimate, i.e.
print, press (and I'm not sure I subscribe to that idea, either) but if
so, the perception's changing rapidly. I know the Review is regularly
visited by established agents and publishers and I know at least one poem
that first appeared on The Alsop Review and was later solicited by a book
publisher for an anthology. We're not the poor step-sisters of the
publishing world some often like to complain we are. Not by far.
I believe in government support for the arts so that's one way. And then
there's advertising, which I'm not so keen on though recognise as being
the only option on occasions. With the Poetryetc list there's minimal
advertising (over which I have no control) but I aim to have that removed
entirely, shortly. I don't however, mind the idea of specific private
sponsorship as much - a distinct possibility.
The idea of subscriber-pays is of limited appeal to me. The best way to
kill things off. But it's probably the way it will go.
Let's not forget, as printed journals are inevitably phased out in favour
of the net in future years, academic institutions are likely to fund the
payment of authors in the same way that they fund the payment of authors
in print journals now. Well, those of them that do...
I agree with John, that academic institutions will be one source of
funding, just as they are homes now for many respected literary journals.
I guess advertising's another source but I'm sick of being confronted by
advertising at every turn so I'm not looking forward to that. I like
the aspect of the Web that's free, it's a gift community in a lot of ways,
but it's so tough for writers to survive that I wish there were a way to
compensate them. I also agree with Jaimes, that people who are interested
know we're here. Poetry and art and creativity are going to thrive, no
matter what. And they're probably going to stay where they are now, at
the margins of the culture, whether that's Internet culture or TV culture
or whatever. Still I don't think that means we should just accept that
literary communities can't thrive economically as well. It's interesting
to see what can happen with a little savvy marketing and publicity; an
unknown poet can get on NPR, and over the next few days sales go way up.
There are a lot of people who would buy and read more poetry, if they only
had access. And though the Web ostensibly offers access, poetry is not
really what people are likely to stumble across. They have to look for
it. So my thing is, how can we put it in their path?
PoetryMagazine.com has recently combined an award with continued
recognition of the work of one poet selected each month as Featured Poet.
This poet receives, if they wish, a free page (for which there is
otherwise a charge for purchase) in our Gold Member section on which they
may present a brief bio, photo and an ample sampling of their poetry for
readers to peruse at their convenience.
I believe that individual editors can foster
by putting their own efforts behind ezines that give
exposure to promising poets. However, I see some
limit to the real creative freedom that academic
funding alone can offer. A combination of funding
is necessary and I, unlike Kim and John, certainly
see the necessity for and the freedoms offered by
small commercial advertisements on the Web. I only
wish we had more academic and other small
commercial, as well as government funding
available to us.
Government funding should be
available to publications which also accept
commercial advertising. We must try to keep
poetry on the Web from being merely a club of an
elite group of personal individual wealth and
privilege that only serves and reaches its own
membership. Ideally too, the best Web
poetry publications, like their print siblings ought to
be able to pay their artists and writers for
their work. I think that the time is approaching
when one will subscribe to Web publications much
as one buys a newspaper or magazine.
Depending on the angle of one's vision, poetry and money either have a
very difficult and complicated relationship or no relationship at all. I
go round (the table) with my colleagues and friends on this one all the
time. So let me say, up front, that I'm with Kim when she owns up to
liking the fact that the World Wide Web is "free." (I'm using quotation
marks here because I'm quoting Kim and because the WWW isn't really free.
Equipment costs, access costs, etc. But for our purposes here, Kim's and
mine, if she's still with me, the WWW is "free.")
Another E-Note from MUDLARK:
In MUDLARK poetry is free. Our authors give us their work
and we, in turn, give it to our readers. What is the coin
of poetry's realm? Poetry is a gift economy. One of the
things we can do at MUDLARK to 'pay' our authors for their
work is point to it here and there, wherever else it is.
We can tell our readers how to find it, how to subscribe
to it, and how to buy it...if it is for sale. Toward that
end, we will maintain A-Notes (on the Authors) we publish.
We will call attention to their work.
Because I've taken, and am holding to, that position, the various kinds of
financial support that are either available to us or possible for us, as
editors (and publishers)--John runs through them--are not of special
interest to me. Who was it said: "Let us not forget that the American
Revolution was not financed with matching funds from the crown?" I think
it was Senator McCarthy, Gene not Joe.
There's something like a risk-reward ratio at work in the Poetry World,
just as there is in the Money World. I've invested my own capital, labor
not money, in MUDLARK. That means the return on my investment is my own.
MUDLARK belongs to me, nobody else, just as KAYAK belonged to George
Hitchcock, nobody else. I'd like to think that MUDLARK, like KAYAK, is
"submersible" and that I can somehow manage to keep it afloat.
The other issue here has to do with public awareness, audience,
readership. Jaimes says the "lack of public awareness" of what we're doing
(poetry on the Internet and World Wide Web) is "greatly exaggerated." And
I think he's right. So is Kim when she says: "Poetry and art and
creativity are going to thrive, no matter what. And they're probably going
to stay where they are now, at the margins of the culture." That's not
likely to change in the New (Electronic) Dispensation either. Remember:
KAYAK was never "employed as a means of mass transport." Nor will MUDLARK
I've used the phrase "the New (Electronic) Dispensation" because I want to
point out that the Internet and the World Wide Web are new systems for
dispensing, circulating, or distributing poetry and other kinds of
information. The poems are "out there," and they will remain out there
"for as long as forever is" (Dylan Thomas), if we archive them. The people
who need them will find them, will "stumble across" them, Kim; they are
"in the path."
Jaimes raises the "legitimate" press issue. "We're not the poor
step-sister of the publishing world some often like to complain we are.
Not by far," he says." And I say: Go, Jaimes. There's a retrograde notion,
after the model of the legitimate stage, that anything having to do with a
screen (television, film, computer) is illegitimate. Jay Bolter, in
WRITING SPACE, tells us that we're in "the late age of print." But the
book isn't closed on the book, and it won't be for a long time, if ever.
My prediction is that the book will turn, over time, into primarily an
archival medium and migrate from the library to the museum. But that's
another round table discussion.
I'd like to add some thoughts that came up in a subsequent email dialogue I had with William Slaughter. We were talking about some of the remarks I've seen to the first two round tables, where poets seemed to think the editors went on a bit too much about themselves. And I said something to Bill like, "I find learning more about the editors of many publications, their motivations, their ideologies, really fascinating." This is part of his response:
I heard Erskine Caldwell speak, in another lifetime, and he was
the question and answer session that followed his remarks, who
favorite writers were, what he read. I was young then (not a
editor), yet I knew, even then, that I'd never forget how Caldwell
answered that question. He said: 'I decided early on, when I was
or so, that there are two kinds of people in this world, writers and
readers, and that I was of the former kind.' If I heard him right,
think I did, basically what he said, proudly, was that he didn't
I didn't understand it then, and I don't now. But we're surrounded
non-readers in America and I don't know what to do
it...except to point at that illiteracy, every chance I get, and call it
by its right name.
These words made me think that I must have phrased my question wrong about "increased public awareness of
the Internet poetry community" -- because William's remarks were what I was after.
Perhaps because I earn a living among people who don't often read poetry -- and
don't know quite what to make of how I spend most of my free time -- I'm very aware that many people don't value poetry, in fact, they don't read much at all. And I come to all of this
through an art education in the early 70's when we thought of
education and the arts in almost messianic terms; we naively thought we could change the world by helping people come to know the creative side of themselves. Well, that was a bit ambitious, I know that now. And education has changed. In the U.S. our management heavy, test results addicted educational system leaves little funding for any form of arts or literary education, which saddens me.
Then I thought perhaps William and Jaimes both thought I meant awareness "within the poetry community at large." So I decided to conduct an experiment. Now I should qualify this by stating I did so within the New York poetry community, where there is so much to do and see that people are constantly overloaded by cultural offerings.
At the reading I attend each Saturday, I asked the audience, mostly made up of poet friends of the reader and his students, how many had access to an Internet connection.
Two thirds of the people in the room raised their hands. Then I asked how many of them read poetry on the Internet. Only one third kept their hands in the air. Then I asked how many of them had heard of a very well respected Internet poetry site. All the hands went down.
I don't think this one experiment means electronic poetry sites are the poor step-children of the print world, nor do I believe poetry should be as popular as a Bruce Willis movie. And I know longer think as I did in my youth that creativity can save the world. But I do think, as a poet and an editor, that it's important for all of us to fill up the space we inhabit with that which we value, and endeavor to let people know it exists. Thus, I think we still have work to do. It's good work to be doing, that is the blessing of it.
Back to Perihelion