Poetry is often a solitary pursuit. A poet may feel like he is writing in a vacuum, while his poet neighbor might feel the same about her own work. The Internet helps us view poetry not as a universe but as a multi-verse. In one sense, the fluidity and interconnectivity of the Web promotes a sense of community: blogs by established poets reach out beyond professional or institutional bubbles to self-motivated students of poetry, who can comment on and keep abreast of new poetics. In another sense, the Internet's unique capacity for linkage and multimedia opens poetry up to a wider community of artists and readers.
It is still uncertain how profoundly the Web will affect poetry. Nobody expects a viral revolution in verse analogous to what YouTube did to video, but that doesn't prevent poets from taking advantage of similar channels of collaboration and dissemination.
This guide to poetic resources on the Web does not represent all the ways the Internet mediates poetry and connects poets. The websites are meant to serve as jumping-off points--to propel the curious reader into an open poetic multi-verse, a constellation of links. The following resources foreground a lively and continuous discussion around poetry as a dynamic, communal art form.
The University of Buffalo POETICS listserv
UBPOETICS is a venerable mailing list, begat in the early '90s. Under the keen watch of Charles Bernstein, then-director of SUNY Buffalo's poetics program, the Listserv was a jealously guarded secret, and few people were allowed into the club. These days, though, it isn't difficult to subscribe to the UBPOETICS listserv, which is open to academics and laypeople alike. The thrill is no longer one of exclusivity, but of inclusiveness. The administrators encourage subscribers to announce poetry readings and panels, book and chapbook publications and poetry press contests. To a lesser extent, listserv members propose topics of discussion, which often head in interesting directions. Recently, a debate has sprung up around David Orr's New York Times article bemoaning the vacuum of greatness in American poetry after Ashbery.
Bottom line: UBPOETICS is a great way for one to stay in the loop, providing a broader chronicle of poetic happenings and conversations than following a single poet's blog.
Ron Silliman is as much critic as poet, and as much activist as critic. He began publishing poetry in the 1960s, though the '70s saw the beginning of his association with the Language poets (a group of experimental writers informed by the Objectivists, the New York School and the Black Mountain School, among others).
The most remarkable feature of Silliman's Blog is its litany of links. A few times a week, Silliman captions and links to dozens of articles from blogs, journals and newspapers. The articles generally have to do the state of poetry as it relates to politics, economics and the greater art world. A quick scroll down one of these lists gives the reader a unique narrative of social and cultural change in the 21st century (e.g. the closing of independent bookstores, the incarceration of Jordanian poets, etc.).
To the poet wanting to keep abreast of the poetry world, Silliman's Blog provides a great resource. Since its inception in 2002, the site has accumulated over 2,000,000 visitors, becoming one of the most important and influential poetry blogs on the Internet.
Named for the main character of Alfred Jarry's seminal Absurdist (and aggressively scatological) Ubu trilogy of plays, Ubuweb seems to revel in the spirit of the oft-repeated mantra that "information wants to be free."
The site was originally established as a database for visual, concrete and sound poetry. It has since expanded to showcase an array of resources, including film, video and sound art of all kinds, with a focus on work that is experimental or avant-garde. Sometimes this means granting exposure to a work that might otherwise go unseen because it is considered inaccessible, illogical or unpolished by mainstream criticism. At other times it simply means the site hosts an avant-garde document that is widely considered to be a masterpiece.
The website's guidelines call for material that is out of print or hard to find, rather than material that is easily available (lest the site drain potential revenue for commercially viable works). The archive is in a constant state of flux--supported by volunteer digitizers and editors, it grows daily "in all directions," in the manner of theorists Deleuze & Guattari's decentralized and infinitely connectable rhizome.
Affiliated with the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania, PennSound was founded in 2005 as an archive of digital poetry recordings, with the goal of highlighting the performative aspect of poetry. It is unique in that it hosts free mp3s for individual download, rather than recordings of entire readings. The content is categorized according to author, reading series or festival, and there are also guides to content such as a "Classics" section as well as a podcast series. Each track comes tagged with its complete bibliographic information.
In its insistence on offering content for free, PennSound espouses utopian ideals akin to those of the folks behind Ubuweb. PennSound is especially well-suited to poetry lovers who want to share poems they love with people who wouldn't otherwise seek them out. Someone who might feel alienated by the prospect of sitting down with a poem might get a better sense through listening to it. The consolidation of disparate poetry recordings in one place makes it easy to hear many poets read from their work, an experience that always opens the possibility of new interpretations: you may have read a line one way rhythmically, while the way the poet reads it changes your sense of it completely.
Lime Tree (K. Silem Mohammad's Blog)
K. Silem Mohammad is a major player in Flarf poetry, a fairly recent and infamous "movement" fueled by Google searches, e-mail spam and potty humor. Since its inception, Flarf has inspired a fiery debate about its merit and about the direction of poetics in general.
Whether one believes that Flarf poetry is "good-bad" or just "bad-bad," Lime Tree posts and hosts lively discussions dealing with the relevance of poetry, its purpose and its failings. In Mohammad's critical pieces, and in readers' responses, one observes poetics inside the forge, malleable and steaming hot (see his takes on the distinction between Flarf and Conceptual Writing).
One should be warned that Lime Tree is a fitful blog. There are weeks when Mohammad only posts notices about West Coast poetry readings, or about his publications in literary journals. Other weeks, his blog blisters with debate.
Stay tuned for continuing coverage on the Death of Flarf.
RACHEL DE JONG B'09 and ELI HALPERN B'09 are an infinitely connectable rhizome.