baobab girl

Finally, my tree poem chapbook, baobab girl, is READY. Now to figure out where to send it. It has 16 poems in it, nine of which have already been published in some nice places. There were 18, but I had to ditch frangipani and willow – I don’t where they thought they were going. I also abandoned the idea of titling each poem only with the English name/Latin name of each tree (which became dull, frankly). Coming up with new titles was fun, but exhausting, and I know it will result in people reading some of the poems and going, wait, this was a poem about a tree? To which I will respond: YES. They are ALL poems about trees! (In a way.)

So glad to feel that’s done, done. I have this primal urge to clear the decks, get the old stuff out, leave space for the new.

Are you a Web-Active Poet?

Okay, how’s this for a definition?

If #1 below and at least two of the remaining items accurately characterize you, you are a Web-Active Poet:

1. A good portion of your finished work is freely available online (on yours/others’ blogs/sites or in online poetry journals).
2. You check and respond to email at least once a day.
3. You have a comment-enabled blog that you update at least twice a week.
4. You have a Facebook/Twitter/other online social network account that you check/post on at least twice a week.
5. You have a website that consistently displays current contact info and material.

“celebrating the poems of web-active poets”?

Thoughts following yesterday’s post on poets & their web presence and its interesting comment stream:

We all make choices about how we want to embrace (or not) technology and social media, and there is good and honest reasoning behind almost every position. I think Whale Sound has not yet thought through exactly and honestly where *its* position is in that regard. But things are becoming clearer.

The Whale Sound motif is currently “celebrating your poems.” Given everything discussed in the earlier post, especially the essential ‘webness’ of Whale Sound and general workload issues, am now wondering whether that should not morph into “celebrating the poems of web-active poets”, or something along those lines. A motif that clearly puts Whale Sound in a specific place with regard to both solicitations and submissions.

poets & their web presence

The material on Whale Sound is generated partly through submissions (self- and third-party) and partly through solicitations. The project is a lot of fun, but also a lot of work, and I have to find ways to maximize the effectiveness of the time I have to spend on it. Submissions will carry on as they are, but one thing I’ve now decided is that I won’t be soliciting material from any poet without an active online presence.

On the conceptual plane, Whale Sound is a web-dependent project – it simply could not have existed pre-web – and focusing on web-active poets strikes me as a good way to honor the project’s essential ‘webness’. But there are some eminently practical considerations behind this decision. Here they are, wrapped up in the three questions I now ask myself before pursuing any solicitation:

1. Does the poet have work freely available online, as opposed to locked up in print journals or in copyright-sealed print collections? I’ve had some experiences with trying to get permission to include such text on Whale Sound. Although I succeeded in one case – and still love the piece in question – I quickly decided that dealing with publishers and agents and filling out forms, sending endless emails and/or being asked to pay for usage is simply too much trouble – however amazing the piece – when the supply of freely available amazing online pieces is frankly enormous. After a couple of months on the project (and the levels of poetry-dross out there notwithstanding) it’s absolutely clear to me that Whale Sound won’t exhaust freely available online poem amazingness for years to come.

2. Is the poet easy to contact? In some cases, I’ve found a piece online I really liked that lacked contact info in the journal bio. A Google search did not throw up a website, blog or Facebook page for the poet. What next, then? In three instances, I emailed the editor of the online publication and got two positive responses, the third is still out there after several weeks. In another case, after much searching, I found an email address online buried in small print and linked to the poet’s day-job and got lucky that way. But again, I have a life and a day-job of my own and this is all just too much trouble, given the quantity of excellent work out there attached to an easily-contactable poet with an active online presence.

3. How will the poet promote his or her Whale Sound reading? Do they have an active website/blog or active Facebook/Twitter accounts? The more each poet promotes their own reading, the more they promote all the other poets on Whale Sound. It’s collective self-promotion. The entire project benefits most from including poets with an active web presence, since that raises the level and intensity of that collective self-promotion. Of the three considerations I list here, this is the least pressing to me, since I think the levels of collective self-promotion already at play on Whale Sound can afford to carry a few less-active-online poets, but I’m keenly aware it’s a balance I need to keep in mind.

Whale Sound submissions etc

Whale Sound has received 21 submissions in the last four days. Nine of them (that’s 42%) were sent in on behalf of someone else. Thank you, all you generous people!

I just posted Friday’s readings, ending the Whale Sound week. This week featured 15 readings, three per weekday. Still exploring what is a manageable operational tempo for Whale Sound and feeling surprised at how much work it all is. As well as the actual recording and the editing of recordings, there’s all the correspondence, reading submissions, trawling for work I’d like to solicit and then (sooo tedious), preparing the html for both the bios and the postings themselves.

Viewer stats are looking good – last Friday was the busiest day ever to date, with 381 views, and yesterday wasn’t bad either, with 341 views. The Top 20 Whale Sound posts are shifting around as new ones come online and older ones rack up hits. I’ll wait till the end of the month and post the revised list through October.

sound+text vs just-sound: just-sound wins!

Here’s an interesting, if deeply unscientific, look at how the role of text is shaping up on Whale Sound. I compared how many times visitors clicked on the ‘poem text’ link as compared to those who clicked on the main audio link for some of the higher-click pieces from today and yesterday:

clicks on audio……..clicks on text

Which might be taken to indicate (continuing in the same deeply unscientific vein) that visitors to Whale Sound have recourse to text less than 20% of the time! Of course, no way to tell how many visitors actually listen to the audio all the way through (ie engage meaningfully with it sans text), but still, I find this all very encouraging.

Top 20 Whale Sound posts and other stats

    1. ‘Something Brighter Than Pity’ by Carolina Ebeid
    2. ‘And Her Name Was I Am Not Staying’ by Corey Mesler
    3. ‘A Hole In My Name’ by Amy King
    4. ‘Vestment’ by Sarah J. Sloat
    5. ‘At Ruby’s Diner’ by Sherry O’Keefe
    6. ‘Lament’ by Jill Alexander Essbaum
    7. ‘They Seek An Inky Elixir’ by Christine Boyka Kluge
    8. ‘The Way Back’ by Kathleen Kirk
    9. ‘The Day the Beekeeper Died: Sulaymaniya’ by David Allen Sullivan
    10. ‘Miniatures’ by Mary Biddinger
    11. ‘Kingdom’ by Nancy Devine
    12. ‘Sink or Float [quick fix witch]‘ by Juliet Cook
    13. ‘After Adultery’ by Collin Kelley
    14. ‘Raguel’ by Christine Klocek-Lim
    15. ‘A History of Stone and Shadow’ by Carolyn Guinzio
    16. ‘The Rising and Falling of Trees’ by Pat Fargnoli
    17. ‘A Bigfoot Poem’ by Dave Bonta
    18. ‘Death By Precipitation’ by Patricia Lockwood
    19. ‘Half Moon’ by Juliet Cook
    20. ‘Distance’ by James Cervantes

This captures the number of hits on the current existing 63 posts, using the Top Posts of All Time WordPress function (as opposed to the Top Posts Today, This Week or This Month), so it’s not really fair to more recent posts, which haven’t had the time to garner the hits older posts have been able to rack up (although look at Jill Alexander Essbaum’s ‘Lament’, only posted yesterday!) The ranking overall is probably a week or two behind reality, though, I’d say.

Other stats of possible interest:

Whale Sound
launched on August 30 and it’s now early October, so September represents a full month of activity. WordPress shows that Whale Sound got almost 4,000 visits during September (3,832, to be precise). If you look at weekly activity, visits apparently hover around the 150 mark every weekday, dipping to between 50 and 100 on weekends (Whale Sound doesn’t post on weekends).

On Facebook (click here and like!) Whale Sound has 99 fans so far, who are 73% female and and 22% male. The vast majority (80% plus) are US poets. We love this, while also remaining interested in branching out. My own personal stats, for participating poets posted and pending, show that Whale Sound poets are currently 62% female and 38% male.

dear Poet X: how do you say your name?

To add to submission guidelines?

“If your name is in any way unusual or frequently subject to mis-pronunciation, please include a phonetic spelling of the correct pronunciation.”

I’m getting smarter at nailing this down earlier in the process, but in a few cases I’ve actually been at the mike when I realize I’m not sure how to pronounce the poet’s name correctly for the poem credit.

submitting on others’ behalf (part 3)

(Part 1; Part 2)

Found this morning that the acceptance note for this process is a hybrid acceptance/solicitation and is sent to two poets. Weird, but very cool to write:

Dear Poet X2: I am building an audio anthology of contemporary poems online called Whale Sound, which takes submissions. Whale Sound recently began accepting submissions made on behalf of third-party poets. Poet X1, copied above, saw and loved your poem ‘Z’ (available online at link Y) and suggested it to me. I loved it in my turn and am asking for your permission to interpret it for Whale Sound. If you have a moment to visit the site, you will get a good sense of my style and approach. Please let me know if this works for you.

(Thanks to Whale Sound poet Laura Sheahen for this submission!)