Online poetry: A thriving community

I got this one from Julie.

It comes from today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. It’s an interesting article.

An excerpt:

Amateur poetry is everywhere on the Internet… circulated via e-mail, posted in private and public group discussion forums, shared on thousands of Web logs, published in many small e-zines… . Exact numbers are difficult to estimate, because it isn’t an organized activity. It’s a grassroots culture of personal artistic expression… . Some of it is quite good. Is it literature? Not according to academic definitions.”

That term academic seems key to understanding the phenomenon of Internet poetry. I think what is meant by it is the poetry establishment – the poetic counterpart to the mainstream media (MSM). As Bryant wrote in a comment to an earlier post of mine: “Print poetry tends to be an in-crowd sort of thing. The Internet has blown this wide open. The in-crowd is much larger… . it includes everyone. It’s instant, supportive, and appreciative. There are niches where aspiring poets of any level can fit right in. Poetry e-zines exist for practically any taste and level of sophistication.” Rachel Dacus, proprietor of the blog Rocket Kids (dacusrocket.blogspot.com), agreed. Online poetry, she wrote, is “a participant sport.”

In other words, as with the blogosphere vs. the MSM, online poetry has something to do with getting around official gatekeepers. But not everything. Far more important seems to be that sense of community, and the opportunity to share one’s work and have it judged – and critiqued – by other poets. Lisa Janice Cohen, of Blue Muse Poetry ( www.bluemusepoetry.com), moderates an online poetry community and is an active member of Forward Motion for Writers (www.fmwriters.com/), an Internet writing community. She wrote that “the promise and the strength of the Internet has nothing to do with commerce, and everything to do with linking communities of common interests. Through Wild Poetry Forum (www.wildpoetryforum.com/) and Forward Motion, I have access to a group of writers from all over the world who come together simply because they all have a reverence for the power of the written word.”

Others, however, say that all is not always sweetness and light in the world of Internet poetry. Arthur Durkee, of ArthurDurkee.net , who works in a range of media, reported that he has taken part in “boards where things ran very smoothly, a lot of great writing appeared, and critique was honest without being vicious, precise… without being a personal attack.” But, he added, “the anonymity of the Internet frequently leads certain people to cut their dark sides loose, and… say and do things they’d never do in face-to-face life.”

And again:

Can any valid inferences be drawn from all this? I think so. The most obvious is that there is a lot of online poetry being written, and that its quality is widely variable, as is the quality of the criticism.

But it would also seem that the more people you have writing poetry the better the chances are that more good poetry will be written, simply by virtue of a broader take on reality born of a greater variety of experience. It is worth noting that much of the poetry online boasts highly innovative kinds of presentation – Cruzio Cafe’s aforementioned animations, for instance. It also gives scope to genres that are frequently overlooked, such as the “speculative poetry” featured at the Science Fiction Poetry Association.

At any rate, as Durkee observed, “making a poem out of an experience is an inherently positive enterprise, regardless of the quality of the final result.” Or, as a woman from Mississippi who identified herself only as Steadydrip, put it: “Using the Internet, society finds a voice when society feels like it has no voice… . I might not be educated, astute, degreed or academic but I am. And, in simply being, I have entrance into the warp and woof of the universe…”

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