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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ok. A relatively speaking somewhat perhaps possibly biggish entry for a change. I'm guilty of abandoning this blog to some extent due to my fascination with Now What, the collective blog I recently joined. As you'll see, Now What is a blog for "alternative" prose writers & publishers (of independent presses as opposed to journals) recently started by Lance Olsen and Ted Pelton. I think they're ALL or practically all writing professors, so they discuss pedagogy quite a bit. They're also exceedingly well read and most have published a bunch of novels & or collections. So I'm often at a loss to know what the hell they're talking about, and I'm quite a bit intimidated as a result, but I'm having fun anyway, posting relevantly irrelevant and irreverant comments. And I'm kind of amazed and amused to be there. Thank you, Lance! (in case you read this entry.)

Just e-xchanged words with another member of the blog who seems to be enjoying Mad Hatters' Review as well as my posts, which he says are "funny" and "smart" and NOT "tentatious." So I looked up "tentatious," which he finds to be a trait some (so-called) "experimental" writers share to some degree or other. So logically, if I'm not tentatious, I may not be "experimental." Which is a big relief. I have enough problems yet, such as occasional attacks of "contentious tongue," particularly after 1:00 am.

So I wrote to my comrade to say that I'd just looked up the word "tendentious," as my vocabulary aint all that impressive but my grammar's absolutely. I'd thought that maybe the word had been derived from tendon, and might mean touchy. So now we have a new word: "tendontious," meaning: 1) touchy and oversensitive, as in: The tendontious poet rebuked our criticisms, skulking out to sulk in grandmother's hope chest; 2) quickly irritable, prickly or likely to become inflamed at the slighted touch. syn: a total pain in the neck. Usage note: Most commonly used to apply to writers what deem theirselves experimental.

So now you know a bit about why I've been absent of late. Though there are of course many other reasons, most of which would bore you as much as they bore me. One light in the dismal dismay of the life and times of is a project I'll be starting with Girija Tropp and Jai Clare and a few other adventuresome/"alternative" writers -- a collective novel based on a game I used to play as a child. No more about this till it's published.

Speaking of publishing, Kathryn and I presented our Butterflies of Vertigo collection to our agent Sophia, and I'm engaged in completing a few necessary tasks before Sophia can begin to shop the mss to various publishers. Of course, now is when I begin to meet additional writers I'd have loved to include, but maybe we'll co-ed a sequel anthology.

Another nice new acquaintance/colleague type of thing has occured. Poet and blogger Rus Bowen, of Lowell, Mass., an utter stranger till last eve, contacted me about an article journalist & blogger Frank Wilson (Frank's Book Blog) wrote for the Phili Inquirer -- all about the flourishing of poetry in the flowerbeds of cyberspace. Here's the article:

Posted on Sun, May. 21, 2006
Online poetry: A thriving communitySome is quite good, but is it literature? By Frank Wilson INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Everybody agrees that the Internet's impact on politics and the media has been considerable. Ask Dan Rather. Or Trent Lott.

But what about its impact on literature - in particular, on poetry?

Yes, poetry. It seems that the crème de la crème of verbal construction, what the philosopher Martin Heidegger, in a rare lapse from impenetrability, called the essential form of speech, has taken to cyberspace the way dandelion seeds take to a gust of wind.

I didn't pay any attention to this until last fall, when I agreed to judge the Interboard Poetry Community's online poetry competition for October. Managing editor Gina Bryson e-mailed me about three dozen poems culled from God-knows-how-many submissions.

Choosing three winners turned out to be harder than I anticipated, because just about all of the poems had obvious merit. This wasn't doggerel, or prose arbitrarily divided into lines. There was real word-music on display, fresh imagery, and genuine sentiment. I ended up reading through the whole batch several times and going with the three that more than any others stuck in my head.
Something else stuck in my head: the notion that poetry online might be worth looking into. In my head is where the notion stayed until last month, when I posted something on my blog ( about it and invited interested parties to weigh in.

Did they ever. More than 75 comments, many of them fairly long and detailed, complete with links, came my way. A healthy batch of e-mail arrived as well.

What did I learn? More than I can ever possibly recount here.

Take the numbers. The other day I asked on my blog if anybody knew of any online poetry numbers worth citing. Beau Blue, whose Web page Beau Blue Presents ( features Blue's Cruzio Café - where, currently, animated versions of poets Robert Sward, Rob Evans, Jack Foley and Renay read their poems - responded quickly. "According to search, after search, after search," Blue wrote, "there seems to be zero number of people who actually know how many poetry Web sites exist." Carl Bryant, whose blog is modestly named Carl's Tiny Brain ( ), was more helpful. "Technorati claims that there are around 4,000 blog posts per day tagged as 'poetry,' " Byant wrote. "Google returns 397,000 results for the 'online+poetry' search phrase."

Bryant elaborated in a follow-up: "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 (, 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 (, moderates an online poetry community and is an active member of Forward Motion for Writers (, 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 ( 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 , 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."

There was also mention of "Sturgeon's Law," named after science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, who once said that "90 percent of science fiction is crud. That's because 90 percent of everything is crud." Rick Storey, a research scientist whose poetry has been anthologized in Australia and Britain, wrote that "the very democracy of the Net means that there is little or no segregation between contributors of widely different abilities."

Durkee observed that "if a board grows into a community of friends, who have some familiarity with each other's work and concerns and topics, the critique tends to get better" - in other words, a board analogous to a "face-to-face regular group." He added that "the only poetry boards online that I have found useful at all are those that follow that real-space model."

But Gary Blankenship, publisher of MindFire (, disagreed. "Forums or workshops," he wrote, "are not meant to be publishing. By and large they are less polished by nature. The e-magazines are something else again and they do publish works that match and exceed anything on paper... . there are between 25 and 50 that are as good as the Iowa Review, Threepenny [Review], [the Best American Poetry series,] [the Pushcart Prize series,] or any other..."

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..."

Note: Starting today, my blog will offer a clearinghouse of poetry Web sites. I'll be maintaining that page and invite your suggestions and queries.

Contact books editor Frank Wilson at 215-854-5616 or Read his recent work at Frank's article here:

So anyway, I commented on the article and Rus forwarded the url to my Interview (or I should say Charles Ries's Interview of moi) to Frank. So now lo and behold this development (from Frank's blog):

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A chat with an online publisher ...
Charles Ries interveiws Carol Novack, editor/publisher of Mad Hatter's Review.I plan on adding much to my blogroll before the day is out. But I have also been using the holiday weekend to relax a bit and become reacquainted with my wife.Carol Novack also has a blog: I am not who I think I am or is it whom?
posted by Frank Wilson at 11:33 AM

Carol Novack said...
Thank you for providing a link to the interview, Frank! Rus Bowen wrote to tell me of your fine, much needed article. As an online lit zine advocate, I appreciate it!I'll be adding a link to your blog in mine.Happy memories this weekend! Carol

1:29 PM
Rus Bowden said...
Hi Frank,Thanks for posting this up, spreading the word about such a great online review.~~~Carol,Congratulations and thank you on such a fine zine. It's outside the box in a remarkable direction.~~~The current issue is nicely done, and I had a good time this morning in, among other spots, Mental Theatre.Good work, and lots of it, go into something like this.Gratefully,Rus
3:15 PM

Other news: I've gotten a collection of my quirky alien creatures together to sub to "alternative" presses, but it won't be complete till I finish My Life with the Runaway Bride, and I've been procrastinating like crazy. I just today managed to email my cartoonist collaborator Phil Nelson the words and concepts for one or two new episodes of our Perils of Patriotic Polly strip. I'm way behind.

Very excited about our upcoming reading this Thursday with poet Edwin Torres and lyrical fiction writer Dawn Raffel, whom I met last week. She's another fantastic new person in my life as is my new writer friend here in NYC Ellen Geist, an old friend of poet Michael Rothenberg's, also a relatively new friend --- the editor of Big Bridge. Edwin offered us Mad Hatters a stack of wondrously inventive poems to publish in Issue 6. I'm thrilled!

Signing out now.

In dementia comme toujours....

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