Ten Questions on Poets & Technology: Eric Elshtain

The internet, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, iPad, iPod, podcasts, digital video and who knows what else. What do they all mean for the poet qua poet? For Poetry? Is it still pretty much where the Gutenberg press left it? Is Poetry technology-proof? In our fearless ongoing quest to exploit other people’s wisdom on poetry-related subjects, we are posing ten questions to a group of illustrious contemporary poets on this topic. This week’s responder is Eric Elshtain.

1. Characterize your general attitude as a poet towards technology.

One central poetic power of recent digital technologies is the ability to assist in the actual death of the author. If I may quote from friend and poet Matthias Regan, whose group the Next Objectivists is poetically mobilizing here in Chicago and beyond:

Until now the ‘author’ as authority and autonomous creator has only been ‘dead’ in theory, never in practice. Indeed, many of the previous generation’s critics and poets have proclaimed the death of the author so successfully that we all know them by name! A poetics based on the deconstruction of predominant economic sensibilities has become capitalized upon in turn. We must generate the language of a new kind of subjectivity—the language of the multitude. The theoretical discarding of authorship must be replaced by an actual anonymity.

The Next Objectivists use typewriters to create the “language of the multitude”; collective poetry writing situations set in public places that the Next Objectivists call “transcription events.” What computer assisted poetry can do (if used for good and not evil) is give a poet the ability to create a public situation in her own home, via software that gives the poet/end user access to language from existing texts (novels, newspaper articles, the complete works of Gertrude Stein), thereby composing poetry not out of some archaic sense of “genius” or “self,” but out of a collectivity of voices that inherently democratizes the poetic process on the level of meaning. That is, the reader is allowed to become the last link in the authorial chain. This extension of the poetic process outwards is what differentiates computer-derived poetry from many human poetic poetries and procedures, but the technology of scissors can perform the same task. The computer just makes it easier, faster, and gives one the ability to derived poetry from thousands of texts, rather than just a few, as well as chips away at the harmful poetics of distinctions.

As the editor of an on-line chapbook press, what can I say? Beard of Bees has a devoted set of readers in Tallinn, Estonia. What else can you ask for as a small poetry press that has never advertised, does not have a blog, Facebook page, &c? The web is a tremendous poetry delivery mechanism…as Ron Silliman suggested in his answers to these same questions, the implications of this new relationship to readers of poetry has yet to be fully considered, though at best the Web’s form of free and unfettered delivery (if used in this way) can steer the practice of writing away from personal entrepreneurship. For people who just want their poetry to be read, music to be heard, films to be seen, what better technology could there be than what we have available to us today? I am not doe-eyed and over-optimistic, but the potential is there less-privatized, anti-individualized, fully politicized poetry and poetry publication.

2. Do you use Facebook in your capacity as a poet? If so, how, and what are its upsides and downsides? If not, why not?
3. Do you use Twitter in your capacity as a poet? If so, how, and what are its upsides and downsides? If not, why not?

While the technologies are ethically neutral and can be used wisely and well as tools for dissemination of literature and ideas, the very notion of “friends” (Facebook) and “followers” (Twitter) feels suspect. Creepy, even. Sites like Facebook are fantastic tools to disseminate information and create collectives, though in reality, they are mostly used as billboards of the self, and all that. I created a Beard of Bees GoogleGroup to announce events and publications. That is about as close as I have come to anything like a networking site. I also began, but no longer maintain (that has been taken up by someone with much more energy than I) a GnoetryDaily blog where experiments with Gnoetry and other poetry-generating machines are publicly demonstrated. Twitter is interesting given its word count constraints—but I do not know if anyone is doing anything interesting with Twitter.

4. What other technologies – including blogs, websites and podcasts – do you employ in your capacity as a poet? Explain how, and the upsides and downsides of each. If none, explain why.

As I mentioned above, I edit an on-line poetry chapbook press, Beard of Bees. Besides my time and a modest fee to keep our web-moniker, it is free to do and free to use. That is a big upside. Working via e-mail also facilitates the ability to work closely with poets; that is, in fact being an editor rather than merely a reader with self-appointed privileges, a “gatekeeper.” Many chapbooks on Beard of Bees have been passed back and forth between the author and myself before publication, sometimes with the understanding that revisions do not automatic publication. Having worked as a poetry editor for a “traditional print journal,” the technology of email (the dispassionate frame of electronic circuits maybe?) seems to make people more willing to consider rethinking and revising their texts, thinking of the poems as semi-public property, rather than jewels dug from a lone mind. I think technologies assist in this attitude, just as using a typewriter must have facilitated the editorial and collaborative efforts of the Modernist poets. The downside is that the very screen that electronic media creates between the artist and her work creates a screen for some between a right relationship between human beings. Just like car horns are prosthetic shouting devices, so to is computer communication technologies. Never once did I get an angry letter from someone to whom I had sent comments back about his work while I edited the Chicago Review (okay, once—a hand-written screed). I have received tens of hate-filled emails from poets who sent to Beard of Bees, in response to my having sent the poets reasons why I did not publish their work. As one disgruntled poet put it to me, “I often wished I didn’t get back those impersonal slips and emails and that just one time an editor would tell me why he didn’t publish my work. I guess be careful what you ask for, especially since you’re obviously a frustrated poet who uses editing to get back at those of us who are more successful than you.” &c. I wonder if this poet would have bothered to take the time to hand write or to type such a missive?

The other capacity in which I use technology is as a poet, and I suspect my relationship with Gnoetry, the poetry generating software written by Jon Trowbridge, is the main reason I was asked to be part of this excellent Q&A session. I will get to Gnoetry below.

5. What do you dislike most about how other poets use technology?
6. What do you like most about how other poets use technology?

On the order of computer-generated poetries, I find myself in disagreement with those who have tried to and would like to use this form of poetry to pass some form of quasi-Turing test to prove that work generated with software can be mistaken for work written only by human hand. Why not let the machine have some integrity beyond a comparison with human poetry? Why use a machine to try to “infiltrate” some perceived non-inclusion (as with some efforts to get computer-generated work in journals and then lift the veil—“A-ha! Fooled you!”) Rather than try to pass off computer-generated poetry as not computer-related at all, for me it is more interesting to consider human-machine collaboration as a new paradigm for what can be considered poetry, and who can be considered a poet. One of the best moments I have witnessed with Gnoetry occurred during one of our early field tests—a gentleman who is a self-proclaimed “non-artist” reluctantly used the software and announced that he “felt like a poet,” that he had a hand in making language do interesting things. Imagine people using (abusing?) work hours composing poetry using Web-based computer-generated poetry software rather than playing yet another round of FreeCell. That would be sweet.

7. Technology is enabling poets today to take poetry off the page in ways that were previously inconceivable. Either comment on this piece by Tom Konyves or provide a link to and comments on a different piece of work that uses technology to take the poem off the page.

In some ways this question hinges on defining the Konyves piece as a poem in the first place. Is it a poem and not a “film” because it incorporates language? What makes Max Ernst’s “poemes visible” poetry? Or a Joseph Cornell box (his work has long been deemed poetic)? What is at stake when we declare something a poem or call something “poetic.” Whatever the case may be, the Konyves piece is a great reminder that we are always surrounded by poetry and potential poetry, by images and texts that scroll past us or that we stroll past every day; maybe most poems are in fact never written, but are left as thoughts, or spoken as conversations, that just float in the aether…until, perhaps, they get captured and sung, filmed, sculpted, written, painted. Technologies can certainly facilitate a page-less poetics, and in particular a participatory poetics, in which end-users are am active part of the poetic process. That is, the reader becomes a poet.

8. Do you use technology as an integral element of your poetry? If so, how? If not, why not?

Over the last nine years, I have been part of the creation and dissemination of the aforementioned Gnoetry, a poetry generating computer program. Discussion of its origin and how it works can be found here and continuing experiments with Gnoetry and other tools for the creation of computational poetry can be found here.

Much of my poetic output over the last three years, coincident with the birth of my daughter, has been in collaboration with Gnoetry in one way or another. I may use it to create a “rough draft” of a poem that I then revise in the traditional sense. I may use the program to compose “notes” for poems, culling lines here and there to create inspiration. I many ways, Gnoetry as a tool is no different than the many procedures poets invent to compose poems (I also use procedures to compose poetry) but Gnoetry is immediately collaborative since the language you are using with the software is from extant texts. There are some interesting implications with using a tool like Gnoetry. The language is randomized, but not beyond the reach of syntactic integrity. An author’s style resides in syntax. A group of syllable-based renga composed using the statistical analysis of a novel by Edith Wharton is, in essence, written in Wharton’s voice. Who is to say that the renga are not long-lost poems written by Wharton herself? See here.

In any case, a procedure is just another form of technê (might we say that all poetry is procedural on a certain level?) and Gnoetry is a wonderful way to proceed towards poetry. Maybe not for everybody. During a Gnoetry interactive demonstration, a young woman sat down to use the software, happy with the interface, happy with the texts she could choose to use as the language corpus, &c. Then, in a synapse flash, Gnoetry composed the poetic solution to the problem she posed (how to make blank verse out of several texts) and she read a few lines, shot up from her seat and back away from the machine slowly saying “No, no, no, that’s not what I want at all.” I have no idea what she was expecting. At another demo, the people in the crowd applauded and ohh’d and ahh’d at each gnoetic creation like they were watching fireworks. In both cases, I have never seen people react to poetry in those fashions.

In the very least, Gnoetry presents many people with a novel way to compose poems. Some do not like it because it eradicates some sense of creativity or originality or inspiration that they hold dear; others find little difference between composing with Gnoetry and composing poetry “by hand.” How else do we write poetry but with pre-existing language handed down to us through oral and textual traditions that we then randomly choose from, arrange and re-arrange into poetry? Gnoetry just makes this process very fast.

An interesting thing happened when I first started doing and witnessing extensive experiments with Gnoetry. I noticed that collaborations with the software were churning out poems that sounded remarkably like the poetry I was writing—a parataxis based assemblage of images and ideas. I felt challenged to do what the computer could not, and began to transform my own approaches to composition, and started hand writing drafts and using the typewriter much more. So: in some ways, even if I am not collaborating with Gnoetry, I am writing in reaction to Gnoetry.

9. What has technology done for or to Poetry?
10. What should Poetry do with or about technology that it has not yet done?

Computer and Internet technologies have made reading and publishing poetry available to people—free—in an unprecedented way. I want to note two reactions to this form of free publication. The slow integration of Web-based publishing into the fold of “legitimate” publishing, something many poetry “professionals” became anxious about. That is, one could start putting Web-based publications into one’s CV since they were deemed just as “serious” as print journals. Fortunately, the Internet allows for self-publication and self-promotion, and while this may be bad for the novel, it certainly cannot hurt poetry. Poetry best exists outside of the usual marketplace; the Web helps keep more and more poetry safe from the typical arbiters of verse culture.

The other reaction I have noticed to the ease of publishing on the Web has been the explosion of small presses using older technologies such as letterpress, making beautiful hand-made, hand-sewn book objects.

There will always be a new lyre for poets to strum, for poets to imagine being strummed by some wind or another. There is always someone out there doing interesting with or to the lyre, and with the communication technology available to us, we are more likely than not to be able to see it. How great is that?

I recently finished my PhD at the University of Chicago. If you see me, call me “Bones,” please. I work as poet-in-residence at John H. Stroger, Jr, Hospital, conducting poetry and art workshops for hospitalized children through Snow City Arts, a non-profit foundation. I also edit the exclusively on-line Beard of Bees Press.

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Previous responders:

Amy King
Collin Kelley
Ren Powell
Chris Hamilton-Emery
Cati Porter
Ron Silliman
January O’Neil
Dave Bonta
John Vick
Sandra Beasley

This series’ standing page: click here.

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Previous Ten Questions series:

1. Ten Questions on Poetry
2. Ten Questions on Publication
3. Ten Questions for Poetry Editors

Ten Questions on Poets & Technology – Sandra Beasley

The internet, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, iPad, iPod, podcasts, digital video and who knows what else. What do they all mean for the poet qua poet? For Poetry? Is it still pretty much where the Gutenberg press left it? Is Poetry technology-proof? In our fearless ongoing quest to exploit other people’s wisdom on poetry-related subjects, we are posing ten questions to a group of illustrious contemporary poets on this topic. This week’s responder is Sandra Beasley.

1. Characterize your general attitude as a poet towards technology.

I attended a high school for science, and there really was a time when I’d have chosen an afternoon of noodling around in Pascal code over fumbling my way through a sonnet. So I don’t have any inherent resistance to technology, nor do I have any attachment to older writing modes. I’ll draft using whatever is handy—email body, sheet of notepaper, Word document, napkin, blog post. I’m a pragmatist; I don’t fetishize the latest edition or software.

But I’ll admit reticence in using icons of technology in my poems. I love using the vocabularies of chemistry, biology, and physics, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a cell-phone in I Was the Jukebox. In Theories of Falling one poem equates “the click of our million keyboards” to “the sound American souls make as they collide.” Though I don’t know how I could have gotten at the idea without referencing computers, it still nags at me. Why? I don’t know. My worry can’t be becoming dated, given my poems name-check Pringles and Log Flumes.

2. Do you use Facebook in your capacity as a poet? If so, how, and what are its upsides and downsides? If not, why not?

I use Facebook status updates, so sometimes that implicitly promotes an upcoming reading—or gives me an opportunity to congratulate another writer. But I don’t do much with events or notes or memes. I certainly don’t expect people to track my career via Facebook.

Honestly, I’m not crazy about the commingling of personal and professional communities in such an overly articulated space. When I first signed up it was for the sake of sharing photos with old school friends. As it happened one University of Virginia friend was also a poet, which opened the floodgates. Now I receive a steady stream of messages asking me to subscribe to a journal, buy a book, or somehow make it to a reading on the opposite coast, often a dozen messages per day. It’s the equivalent of poetry spam.

Sometimes a reader reaches out, which is lovely—I don’t take that for granted. But I wish they’d use email instead, since that’s a medium where I can organize and archive correspondences. Facebook’s messaging system is dreadful.

3. Do you use Twitter in your capacity as a poet? If so, how, and what are its upsides and downsides? If not, why not?

I don’t Tweet. I don’t follow feeds. I don’t know how to create hashtags. 140 characters: no great threat to one’s attention, right? But think of little birds, each scraping the tip of an outstretched wing-feather along the face of the mountain. Soon the whole damn rock is worn away.

4. What other technologies – including blogs, websites and podcasts – do you employ in your capacity as a poet? Explain how, and the upsides and downsides of each. If none, explain why.

My website and blog are primary entry points into my work. That’s how I promote my readings, make connections to new work and interviews, and in the case of the blog gossip, complain, and share my undying love for the music of Josh Ritter. The balance between the time I devote to each site shifts periodically. Right now I’m anxious to do some overhauling of the website, so I’m looking forward of getting back into the groove of HTML and template tweaking. I have not been posting blog posts because the matter of my life over the past few months has been, well, kind of dramatic and private and mine to keep. (And when not all those things, ridiculously paced by travel.)

I’m loyal to the blog though. People have been so responsive, and many new readers seem to have come to my work through Chicks Dig Poetry. So–unlike many of those who started up blogs around the same time, I suspect–I’m not trying to figure out my exit strategy just yet. But I may switch the focus over to the machinations of the nonfiction publishing world for a year, as I get ready for my memoir (Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl) to make its way into the world next fall.

I don’t do podcasts of my own simply because I don’t have the flair for the technology, but I have taken part in more than a few. I think a well-edited and concise show that mixes readings and smart talk about poetry can be a tremendous thing.

5. What do you dislike most about how other poets use technology?

Sometimes I worry we—and I count myself guilty here—offer up too much explanatory clutter around the full texts of poems in online postings. One of the most remarkable things about the Internet is its unlimited vertical space. Because of technical constraints, it used to be that reviews, interviews, and critical essays would excerpt a poem to illustrate a point; now whole poem texts are regularly plopped in. I hate to think that the first time someone encounters a poem of mine might be in immediate juxtaposition to a critical or narrative explanation of its function. The reader should have some time to form his own theory first, in a neutral reading space.

6. What do you like most about how other poets use technology?

I’m drawn to times when poets use hyperlinking to create a constellation of creative sources and resources they care about. That constellation may go on display in a website with multiple authors (HTMLGIANT, The Rumpus), a blog that seems mimetic of an individual personality (Ron Silliman, C. Dale Young), or even just one single sprawling online essay or post that makes a cultural argument. It’s not that only poets do this, but I love that poets are among those who do, and that I have this way of encountering them as three-dimensional personalities in the two-dimensional space of a computer screen.

7. Technology is enabling poets today to take poetry off the page in ways that were previously inconceivable. Either comment on this piece by Tom Konyves or provide a link to and comments on a different piece of work that uses technology to take the poem off the page.

Can poetry be taken off the page, entirely? Or does a “poem,” at that point, cease to honor some of the core components of poetic craft versus the craft of the visual and dramatic arts? It’s great to present poetry in innovative ways, whether YouTube video-poems or dynamic performance, but at the end of the day I want the anchor of text on a page, whether that page is cotton rag or PDF file. Yes, poetry began as an oral tradition, but that’s just playing devil’s advocate; when we study our Homer nowadays, a written text is considered key to contemporary comprehension.

A poem should feature language, shaped with intent by the author—in terms of conception or lineation—and gesturing toward a larger tradition. That’s the bare minimum, before considering the manipulation of sound and figuration of image, which I consider central pleasures of poetry. I enjoy Konyves piece, but I’d call it a clever video assemblage with a few particularly lyrical juxtapositions. I wouldn’t call it a poem unless cued to do so by this prompt.

Jeez, I sound so harsh and conservative. Sorry about that. But if I don’t stick up for what I believe constitutes a poem, what good am I?

8. Do you use technology as an integral element of your poetry? If so, how? If not, why not?

I am drawn to reading poetry in front of a live audience, and being able to respond or edit organically based on their intellectual attentions, energy, and willingness to laugh. I can’t take pleasure in being reliant on a pre-recorded musical track, a laptop—or even a power source—to bring a poem alive. Things can and will go wrong in such scenarios. I’m staying unplugged.

9. What has technology done for or to Poetry?

As a reader, I am grateful for the ever-increasing number of texts that can be accessed on the virtual page—whether in the case of seeing new work in online journals, or affirming a line from something I once had memorized, or passing the work of a favorite poet along to someone else. While sitting at an office desk, I can just as easily steal three minutes for poetry as for a round of Minesweeper or the latest celebrity gossip. Technology has made poetry a more immediate art.

There are some who will jump on me for not making all my poems available online, given I’m championing the idea above. Actually, the full text of I Was the Jukebox can be found on Norton’s site; it just can’t be copied and pasted, or printed. If its poems as portable texts you’re looking for, about half my poems have been printed or reprinted in online journals. It’s true that I haven’t centralized access through a set of links or a PDF on a site of mine. But so what? I believe in the book as the primary body for a collection, and I want to support my publishers (who have supported me) by letting them be the sole purveyor of that body. I don’t suspect this will satisfy Mr. Knott, which is too bad (I like his work), but so it goes.

Before I leave the topic entirely, I want to recognize that technology has also put previously isolated or self-segregated pockets of poets in conversation with each other. As a writer, I appreciate that the web lets me create a community of peers outside my immediate geography and lifestyle. A poet in Alaska comes to the virtual table; a poet with physical impairment responds as quickly as any able-bodied participant; the poet-mom with only one free hour a day—some ungodly hour, 3 or 4 AM—still contributes to a discussion.

10. What should Poetry do with or about technology that it has not yet done?

There’s got to be more poetic cell phone sounds out there—let’s get our best voices at work on the problem. What we need is the Edgar Allan Poe ring of bells, bells, bells. Perhaps the vibrate mode that echoes the buzz of a fly when it dies. And who doesn’t want a ding announcing that yes, your text message is slouching toward Bethlehem?

Sandra Beasley won the 2009 Barnard Women Poets Prize for I Was the Jukebox, selected by Joy Harjo (W.W. Norton, 2010). Her first collection, Theories of Falling, won the 2007 New Issues Poetry Prize judged by Marie Howe. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Slate, and The Believer, and was chosen for The Best American Poetry 2010.

Other honors include the 2010 University of Mississippi Summer Poet in Residence position, a DCCAH Individual Artist Fellowship, the Friends of Literature Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the Maureen Egen Exchange Award from Poets & Writers. She has received fellowships to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Millay Colony, VCCA, and Vermont Studio Center.

Beasley lives in Washington, D.C., where she serves on the Board of the Writer’s Center. Her nonfiction has been featured in the Washington Post Magazine and she is working on Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales From an Allergic Life, forthcoming from Crown.

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Previous responders:

Amy King
Collin Kelley
Ren Powell
Chris Hamilton-Emery
Cati Porter
Ron Silliman
January O’Neil
Dave Bonta
John Vick

Coming up:

Eric Elshtain

This series’ standing page: click here.

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Previous Ten Questions series:

1. Ten Questions on Poetry
2. Ten Questions on Publication
3. Ten Questions for Poetry Editors>

10 Questions on Poets and Technology – John Vick

The internet, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, websites, iPad, iPod, podcasts, digital video and who knows what else. What do they all mean for the poet qua poet? For Poetry? Is it still pretty much where the Gutenberg press left it? Is Poetry technology-proof? In our fearless ongoing quest to exploit other people’s wisdom on poetry-related subjects, we are posing ten questions to a group of illustrious contemporary poets on this topic. This week’s responder is John Vick .

1. Characterize your general attitude as a poet towards technology.

I was fortunate not to fall into the fear-of-change mode when first exposed to something based on the byte. I was only twenty-one. Sitting in a cinderblock windowless building in a nuclear weapons storage area near the Great Bay in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I held the 12” x 12” discs (one for spell check, one for composing, one for data) and learned everything there was to know about a CPT word processor. I was hooked. When discharged (for being gay), in 1984, I landed in a law office and there was one of An Wang’s devices, then others followed. WordPerfect ruled the day and it would not be hyperbole to say there was an obnoxious number of discs to maintain.

I now have a MacBook, a Mac Mini, an iPod Touch, and a few old music iPods gathering dust – I must have an iPad soon. I was a PC – or the like – for twenty-eight years. Not to preach, but I love my Mac because it is.

All that said, there is something difficult about embracing this “here are my likes and dislikes,” of a blog, Facebook account, etc., which is open to the public/the world. My generation (the designation of which is debatable given a 1961 birth year and the various definitions), is in the midst of transitional ticks regarding such exposing of personal information. So I am intimately tugged back and forth. I have put up and pulled down many blogs and a good number of YouTube videos, depending on which side of my age is tugging me.

But, despite the fact that I chose Europe over an Apple when I was close to leaving home, I am through and through a geek at heart. So all new, all novel; I’m into whatever is new and better at communication, whether or not I actually utilize it.

I was given an iPod Touch last holiday season and one of the first apps I got for it was Christine Klocek-Lim’s chapbook, which is a free app.

Stepping back far before HTML 5 I realized my site impact strategy wasn’t lending itself to anything slick, contemporary, or competitive (which is something I never wanted to be). At that point I archived my own website – my effort years back to get audio of poetry out. That part of my long-term game, “The Adroitly Placed Word Project,” was also victim of my HP laptop crash a couple of years ago and my failure to be able to control changes in the appearance due to software changes.

But my drive didn’t end there. I think what the project accomplished was important, and my obsession with poetry from new technology has a profound effect on me, as it does us all – regardless of our willingness.

2. Do you use Facebook in your capacity as a poet? If so, how, and what are its upsides and downsides? If not, why not?

No, I had difficulty with Facebook and stalking. It was unfortunate, but I had to suspend my account twice and now I basically stay with the same friends. I try to stay invisible in step with Facebook’s ever-loosening privacy protections, so ideally I’m within a safe bunch.

I’m not sure how much it is of value right now, but I have friends who publish their work on Facebook (and I would consider that self-publishing – as on a blog – so that can be an issue depending on your goals). I love that the poetry is shared that way but I opt not to do it. So, I think there will be more and more dynamic website platforms for sharing work, already there are some workshop sites sponsored by well-established poetry organizations, and those are of great value, especially for the geographically-removed poet. In fact, several of those workshops from years back, the bulletin boards of the early 90s, were instrumental in building my confidence as a writer through a handful of friends who eventually formed circles for sharing work.

3. Do you use Twitter in your capacity as a poet? If so, how, and what are its upsides and downsides? If not, why not?

I tweet in the winter about ten times more than the summer – probably due to activity – and I don’t tweet much in the first place. It is a really great way to follow current news and ideas, for sure. I just haven’t become devoted yet. I do follow news tweets (along with Paula Abdul – because she is laughably crackers, Ashton K – for various silly reasons, Paula Dean – the food upon which I was raised, and other various odd people who seem able to go beyond the color of shoes they picked for the day in the text limitations).

4. What other technologies – including blogs, websites and podcasts – do you employ in your capacity as a poet? Explain how, and the upsides and downsides of each. If none, explain why.

I have done one video of a short poem and I would like to do others. Time is a factor with creating video.

I would like to be included in the types of venues suggested by the question, but I do not feel the ability to organize such events at this point. I’m really not very good with marketing.

The use of the Internet is more powerful than we can realize, In the same way I have no idea how much a trillion dollars is, I have no idea how much free literature is available in all its possible forms on the web. That is good.

5. What do you dislike most about how other poets use technology?

This invites a certain critique to me. I’ll say it is really self-destructive to judge other artists negatively. If one cannot, in thought and words, come up with a true wordsmith’s comment on someone else’s work – helpful, not critical – then one is not a poet. It is just as important to carefully place each word in speaking about another’s method as it is to handle delicately the terms placed in our poetry. You may absolutely hate a poem you read, see, hear, observe (all of it), but your commentary should be positive and speak for itself. One slightly nuanced change from the norm of what might be said can easily direct the poet to areas you find of concern in their art. You have to be skillful and it helps with your own work. So, that is what matters. I don’t mean to argue the question, but I try to stop before expressing my dislike of art.

6. What do you like most about how other poets use technology?

Freedom. Ever increasing freedom. It shows and it is unstoppable in its exponentially larger palate for new work, hybrid work, avant-garde work. All of it.

7. Technology is enabling poets today to take poetry off the page in ways that were previously inconceivable. Either comment on this piece by Tom Konyves or provide a link to and comments on a different piece of work that uses technology to take the poem off the page.

I like Konyves piece for its obviously excellent scouting and gathering of images, but more so choices like fading in or basic scene changes make it really smooth – works well. The words displayed – oftentimes quite declarative as with U (heart) U NOW, great choice as are all pieces of the compilation

This is a poem I created a couple of years back.

I had two poems accepted for a forthcoming qarrtsiluni issue (“The Crowd” theme edition), due out in August. Interestingly, qarrtsiluni provides iTunes podcasts of work on their site, which includes a recording of the work. So there is a development of interest — iTunes as a source of contemporary poetry. Audience potential is huge if we can make the world outside of poets and their junkies read, see, participate.

8. Do you use technology as an integral element of your poetry? If so, how? If not, why not?

Other than recording my poems, or using Alex (Mac’s inflection-wise beta voice) – to use in editing – no, but I understand the value and embrace it philosophically. I’m just waiting for what comes my way right now, but the initiative to do more video is coming stronger with this.

9. What has technology done for or to Poetry?

It has increased momentum toward the realization that literature is unlimited, as the Oulipians said decades ago and essentially proved, mathematically.

10. What should Poetry do with or about technology that it has not yet done?

Maintain vigilance as the machines grow and our ability to reach others increases. We know there is huge responsibility in caring for the Internet, robotics, cable television, digital radio, devices, tricorders – the works of mankind trying to satisfy its desires with the least possible effort.

John Vick resides in Minneapolis. He is working toward publication of his first full-length collection. Vick’s chapbook, Chaperons of a Lost Poet (BlazeVOX [books], 2009) received honors in the 2008 Skidrow Penthouse Wardell Prize for Poetry contest. He has been published in various venues internationally. Vick provides both group and individual training. He is a veteran of USAF and has lived at more than twenty-five addresses (excluding sofas) in his life, many in different locales. Vick says what the arts needs right now is a philosopher king who values culture enough to ensure it is property reflected for posterity.

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Previous responders:

Amy King
Collin Kelley
Ren Powell
Chris Hamilton-Emery
Cati Porter
Ron Silliman
January O’Neil
Dave Bonta

Coming up:

Sandra Beasley
Eric Elshtain

This series’ standing page: click here.

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Previous Ten Questions series:

1. Ten Questions on Poetry
2. Ten Questions on Publication
3. Ten Questions for Poetry Editors>

cedar of lebanon

Why is this tree on my tree poem list? What am I thinking?

How can one possibly write meaningfully about a symbol so steeped in religio-politico-historical steepedness without getting sucked into that steepedness?

The fact is, I don’t want to put politics in my poetry, I just don’t.

More from others here, from a previous Ten Questions series on the role of the poet.

The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

Very helpful, Psalm 92.

snails and fiddlehead ferns

I’ve just strung these verbatim bits together from this amazing article, which is just full of potential poems. Putting ingredients together in new ways – what poetry is all about.

sea coriander and beach mustard
puffin eggs from Iceland
musk-ox meat
from Greenland

“People didn’t understand
what he was cooking. They wanted
foie gras. He gave them cloudberries.”

sea buckthorn, an orange berry with
outrageous tang
the buds of ramson flowers

“I didn’t come back to Denmark thinking,
I’m going to put a gel of a gel
of a gel on my monkfish liver while I whip
my guests with burning rosemary,” he said.

he and his team are working
on a new venison dish.
“We imagine ourselves
being the deer,” he said.
“What does it step on?”

His answer: snails
and fiddlehead ferns. “The flavors
will go together,” he said.

look at me!

Just highlighting a comment by Dave Bonta on his 10 questions answers below, because the video he is flagging is terrific! It also has 440,000 views in three months. Dave writes:

As an addendum to my answer to #7 — the discourse on video — I’ve just found a videopoem that appears to have gone viral: Television, a slam-type poem by screenwriter Todd Alcott, made into a video by Beth Fulton, a professional multimedia producer. It’s been played close to 440,000 times in just three months. The only English-language videopoem that’s been viewed more times, to my knowledge, is Juan Delcan’s animation of Billy Collins’ poem “The Dead” on YouTube, with 761,340 views. But it’s been up for three years.

So despite what I said about people not going online to look for videopoems (yet!), it seems that a well-made videopoem with a popular message can attract hundreds of thousands of viewers and be shared all over the social web even in our allegedly poem-phobic culture. OTOH, I don’t think “Television” or “The Dead” come close to challenging “hamster on a piano” or the latest adorable cat video.