‘This Twittering World; or 8 Things I Don’t Necessarily Disagree with About Poetry On The Internet’
Internet as 3D Poet
The Internet provides the readership of a Poet with a rounded representation of his or her life and work. Social media, which typically the Poet is fond of, allows the Poet’s Shakespearean ‘aside’ to share a platform with the Poetry. Social media are the cut-off crusts of the loaf – the ephemera, the Regular Person in the Poet.
Internet as Poet Historian
Everyone is searching for something on the Internet, because it is perceived as an authority on most things – where ‘truth’ is conveyed. It is the Internet Poet’s duty to populate the Internet with Poetry and the facts about Poetry, to keep it a reputable and contemporary authority. For example, according to Wikipedia, there are only 28 women poets in the UK. Sorry, ladies.
Internet as Impersonal Poet
Truth and identity, whatever they are, can be mutually exclusive on the Internet. Eliot wrote about “Poetry being the escape from emotion”. Internet Poetry is an escape from Identity, and the Internet Poet should exploit it. Write unlike yourself and embellish it. Borges and Pessoa could have been great Internet Poets.
Internet as Poetry Equalizer
The Internet Poet doesn’t give a fig about time zones and language barriers. The Internet gives the Poet a Global voice, and the ability to understand the voices of others. It is the difference between buying what someone has written in a book in the book store and reading something written on the store’s toilet cubicle door. The Internet is a vast toilet door, and the Poet’s job is to leave something profound to read, for free.
Internet as Provocateur of Poetry
The poetic revolution will not be televised (when was the last time you saw a TV programme about poetry?), but it will probably be livestreamed. The Poet, if he or she look hard enough, has the means to experience the most recent Poetry being discussed amongst other Poets. The Poet should take part in these events and explore. They will probably hate it, but that’s okay. Hating something is the biggest catalyst for thinking “I can write better Poetry”. Anyone who doesn’t read his or her contemporaries is a laggard. It is too easy.
Internet as No Excuse To Not Read Poetry
Here’s The Waste Land, here’s Howl, here’s everything Emily Dickinson wrote, here’s The Cantos, here’s The Kingfishers. Read them.
Internet as The Death of ‘Is Poetry Dead?’
It is the Internet Poet’s job to shout down the Death Knell of Poetry from ‘the media’. The World thinks Poetry is Dead. It isn’t. It is on the Internet, alive and well, constantly being written, uploaded, commented upon, having articles written about it, shared, re-edited.
Internet as Modernism Incarnate
The Internet offers the Poet access to a simultaneous polyphony of voices, facts, fictions and images – it is the incarnation of Virginia Woolf’s Modern Fiction essay:
‘The mind receives a myriad impressions — trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there; so that, if a writer were a free man and not a slave, if he could write what he chose, not what he must, if he could base his work upon his own feeling and not upon convention, there would be no plot, no comedy, no tragedy, no love interest or catastrophe in the accepted style.’
However, Poetry is smaller than fiction, more immediate. The Poet must let their work be shaped by things their everyday life precludes, but nonetheless experiences through the Internet.
Alex MacDonald lives and works in London. He has had his poetry published in The Quietus, Clinic II and English PEN and was shortlisted for the Poetry School / Pig Hog Poetry Pamphlet Competition. He hosted a series of readings at the V&A Museum on independent poetry publishers. He is currently Digital Poet in Residence at the Poetry School.
Good stuff Alex. It is possible to enjoy/learn/explore poetry almost endlessly on the internet. Try Harvard Poetry Room, Penn Sound, Ubu plus the long list of poetry magazines online. A global window.
Would you elaborate on how the internet poet doesn’t give a fig about “language barriers”? If you don’t speak the language a poem was written in, you’ll be blocked from reading it regardless of whether it’s published in the National Anthology or on a blog.
So much stuff out there.. too much sometimes but you’re right about the access to everyone and everything your heart desires in term of available poets and poetry. I like too the notion of www as poetry equalizer…I’m all for that. I’m not entirely convinced by your exhortation to poets to write something profound on the toilet door of the internet- I’m not sure why, I think I fear deliberate attempts at profundity. That said I can always ignore them an skip to another site, so go on…be profound!
Great to see this! I’ve also just written a piece on Twitter and Poetry called Poetweets – http://www.oxonianreview.org/wp/poetweet/ – and it’s great to see this one too!
(PS: I particularly like your final point, and the Woolf connection :))
That first gif is creepy.
Ooo, meta. I’ve only gone and written a response to both. Find it here: http://therepublicofyorkshire.blogspot.com/2014/08/ladies-and-gentlemen-id-like-to-present.html