‘Whale Sound’ hiatus

It’s been a terrific year at Whale Sound but it’s time to take a break. Going forward, we may occasionally solicit a poem for reading, but we will not be accepting submissions for the foreseeable future. Activity on this blog and on Facebook/Twitter activity will slow down as well.

A few highlights from the Whale Sound year:

- Whale Sound started up a year and one month ago in August 2010
– Published readings of poems by 212 poets
– Published 7 audio chapbooks in multiple formats – website, e-book, PDF and print – most of them free
– Coordinated and participated in 8 group readings
– Established Voice Alpha, a group blog focusing on the art of reading poetry aloud for an audience (I will continue to post here occasionally and hope my fellow contributors will do the same)
– Collaborated on two videopoem tryptich projects with film-maker Swoon – Night Vision and Propolis (the latter also with Kathy MacTavish)
– Established videpoetry channels on You Tube and Vimeo (videpoetry is an area that continues to fascinate us and we will continue to post at these channels)

Meanwhile, these are the 20 Whale Sound posts receiving the most listener clicks – check them out!

  1. If You Were A Bird‘ by Aditi Machado
  2. Infinity‘ by Tess Kincaid
  3. [a group of jellyfish is called a ‘smack.’ a group of lapwings is called a ‘deceit.’] by Chella Courington
  4. Something Brighter Than Pity‘ by Carolina Ebeid
  5. A Different Leaving‘ by Terresa Wellborn
  6. A Week Before You Die, You Are Singing’ by Erin Elizabeth Smith
  7. Sometimes I Still Dream About Their Pink Bodies‘ by Kelli Russell Agodon
  8. Lament‘ by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  9. The Trains‘ by Adele Kenny
  10. A Bigfoot Poem‘ by Dave Bonta
  11. Group reading: ‘The Slender Scent’ by James Robison
  12. Ode to Drunkenness and Other Criminal Activities‘ by Rebecca Loudon
  13. At Ruby’s Diner‘ by Sherry O’Keefe
  14. Sink or Float [quick fix witch]‘ by Juliet Cook
  15. How To Fall In Love‘ by Susan Elbe
  16. The Way Back‘ by Kathleen Kirk
  17. In Which Christina Imagines That Different Types Of Alcohol Are Men And She Is Seeing Them All‘ by Christina Olson
  18. For The Woman On The Boulevard‘ by Emma Trelles
  19. Group reading: ‘Acceptance is to her a phenomenon’ by Ann Bogle
  20. About a Fish‘ by Ana Božičević

‘Handmade Boats’ now in e-book and print


The very first Whale Sound Audio Chapbook was Heather Hummel’s Handmade Boats, published way back in November 2010 (you can read Heather’s and my process notes here).

At that time, I was focused setting up a publication as a website-with-text-and-audio. Adding free PDF download and free audio download seemed to make perfect sense and was easy to do. But it wasn’t until a couple of chapbooks later that I was comfortable enough with Lulu’s POD site to offer a print version and a CD version. We also offered a Lulu e-book version, but that was really just a fancy PDF download. It wasn’t until the 5th and 6th chapbooks that I was comfortable enough with Smashwords e-book publishing to offer an honest-to-God genuine ePUB download. (The Kindle – aka MOBI – version at Smashwords is still sub-par, unfortunately – it’s those hanging indents you can’t do, Kindle!)

We’ve come all that way since Handmade Boats was first published as website-text-audio-PDF-download, and, what with one thing and another, it’s only now that Heather and I have focused on packaging Handmade Boats as an as ePUB file and as a print edition. As usual, the e-version is free, and the print edition available at cost-price from Lulu ($4.98 plus shipping in this instance).

We had to look for new artwork for the e-book and print versions, since the website cover art had limited permission on it. We were thrilled when U.K. photographer Paul Hurst gave us permission to use his lovely work as cover art.

Oh, and don’t forget to check out this awesomely eerie video by Swoon. It’s made from ‘On Edward Hopper’s Automat‘, one of the Handmade Boats poems.

new audio chapbook: ‘Cloud Studies’ by Christine Klocek-Lim

Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks is delighted to announce the publication of its third audio chapbook, Cloud Studies, a sonnet sequence by Christine Klocek-Lim.

This one has been every bit as rewarding and just as much fun to work on as the first two. These are reflective, exploratory poems that serve as test-beds for both technical and intellectual/emotional investigation. They tackle a range of difficult themes – from love, grief and betrayal, to death and existential angst – with a fine sensibility and delicate language, all underpinned by Christine’s considerable technical skill as a poet.

Read Christine’s process notes here.

Read Nic’s process notes here.

Audio Chapbooks Evolution

And there’s so much new with the audio chapbook format!

Whale Sound Audio Chapbooks is offering some new options to the poetry consumer with the publication of Cloud Studies. The central question for the poetry consumer we have been asking as a publisher remains unchanged: How do you like your poetry served?

With this edition we’ve expanded the menu of options. As with previous audio chapbooks, you can:

1. Read each poem online as an individual post
2. Listen to each poem online as an individual unit
3. Download a free PDF of the whole chapbook
4. Download a free MP3 audio file of the whole chapbook

What’s new this time around? You can also:

5. Purchase a print edition of Cloud Studies from Lulu ($4.90 + shipping – this is cost-price, no author/publisher mark-up)
6. Purchase an audio CD of Cloud Studies from Lulu ($5.50 + shipping – again, at cost-price, no author/publisher mark-up)
7. Purchase an e-book edition of Cloud Studies from Lulu ($0.99 – cost-price)

I had some back-and-forth with a friend when I came up with these options. My friend said:  “But if you provide the whole chapbook as a free PDF, who will buy the printed book? If you provide the whole chapbook as a free MP3 file, who will buy the CD?”

I answered with a couple of questions: Wait – what are we trying to do here? Are we trying to sell books, or are we trying to get these poems read? At Whale Sound, we are trying to get the poems read. The number of people who buy the book are not the point. We don’t make money off sales, and we don’t want to. And since Lulu is a print-on-demand publisher, there will not be — cannot be — piles of unsold chapbooks sadly gathering dust in some warehouse.

What matters to us is that the individual poetry consumer who prefers to read poetry from a book or an e-reader in their hands has the option to obtain these poems in those forms.  That the individual consumer who prefers to put a CD in a player to hear these poems can obtain these poems in that form. The question is not: Who will buy the book or the e-book or the CD? The question is: Are we catering to people who prefer their poetry in printed books or e-books or their poetry audio as a CD? In other words, are we delivering poetry in forms that maximize its chances of being read?

Adding these delivery methods is not a whole lot of extra work, believe it or not. I was and remain very surprised at how easy it is. The hardest work lies in producing the basic ‘raw’ material – the edited manuscript, the recorded poems and the cover art. Once that is done, all that remains is to repackage this same raw material in several different ways for different types of consumers. Online text, online audio; downloadable text, downloadable audio; print edition, e-book, CD edition. The technology that makes all these different packaging options easy is available to anyone and is both free and easy to use. Once Christine and I were comfortable with the manuscript and cover art, for example, it took me less than an afternoon on the Lulu website to upload, design and publish the chapbook, of which we both ordered preview copies that same afternoon. The CD was just as easy to put together. As was the e-book. Rocket science, this ain’t.

Whale Sound poet interview – Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

1. Please comment on the following:a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS). 

Absolutely breathtaking. Nic’s voice is simply beautiful, crystalline, and so attentive to the lyrical quality of language. It serves up the phonic echo in such a lilt. All oral renditions are lovely to witness, including poetry recast and recomposed into song. This happened when Vanessa Fernandez, an unbelievably talented singer, gave her original take on one of my poems years ago. Poetry already harbors its own musicality, but when a musician successfully takes it to another level through an elevated vocalization, it’s a beautiful act of creation. It’s as if the muses stayed around to watch, and rained down an ineffable light, beyond its natural position or speech. Having read my own poems, I’ll freely admit I’m not the sort of poet who expects the singular, immutable reading. I actually like delivering the utterance in as many ways as possible to underscore the notion that texts travel, all the time evolving a new expression or rendering or interpretation. Ezekiel Black of Pismire just published a reading which he calls the Google Voice – I had to call long-distance to record the poem. There’s a strange, alluring energy to the electrical noise of the hum or crackle, its gritty rasp of technology. It’s a brilliant rawness, the same shellac with our hasty recording of Vanessa’s live performance of “Caramelized Love” on 98.7FM, a superb radio station in Singapore. We had such short notice, the sound engineer spending a great deal of time on the noise reduction – we eventually included both that guitar-accompanied track and the sleek studio original because we so enjoyed the slippage, the difference, the translation that happens in a work of art.

The vignette that Nic read inhabits the fine space between the prose poem and microfiction. There’s constantly a jostling between the lyric and the narrative within it, the same thing with its other 23 installments, all of which have just been published as a chapbook by Silkworms Ink, huge thanks to editors Jon Ware and James Harringman who were an absolute joy to work with. Clearly, this isn’t syllable count verse or a villanelle with its rhyming refrains, forms where there’s some discernible pattern in line and stress, however muddy or haphazard. This makes it even more rewarding to look at the prosodic elements in Nic’s reading, how deeply complex and buried any metrical variation may be, and how the image-making is reproduced through sonics.

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets.

An interesting angle that prizes the medium. I’m more familiar with the making of books, with most of my life’s work appearing in print. I grew up in the age of rotary dial telephones after all. When I started college, the university was just outfitting its computer workrooms, and very few people owned a personal computer. The web with its multiple platforms has been extremely liberating for the author, who now enjoys a greater degree of self-sufficiency in making public his or her writerly voice. Important and meaningful relationships are being built in ways that were simply not possible before.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy.

It creates a community of shared joys. I always like hearing about what another writer is reading. So it’s great that poets are nominating their favorite poems for a reading. Web-active and living poets aside, I would so love a feature section where Nic reads some thickly lyrical material from the canon, reviving its old-world charm. Like Ezra Pound’s alliterative verse in “The Seafarer”. Or Baudelaire’s pantoum “Harmonie du Soir”, translated by Lord Alfred Douglas, replete with an ab-ab rhyme scheme. That would be awesome.

2. What does WS do well?

That Nic Sebastian is its premise and brand. It’s ace! I remember thinking what a novel idea, to have a really gifted reader take on such a tall order, to read such a diverse array of poetic material crafted by such different writers. To have all those textual energies – borne of such different sensibilities – regain a centre through one performer’s reading is just wonderful to behold, and to experience. I’ve just been invited by the National Book Development Council of Singapore to speak at this year’s Young Writer’s Seminar as well as the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, and I’ll make sure to give Whale Sound a big shout-out.

3. What could WS do better?

I’d say the next step is putting together a book of these recordings, over and above the audio chapbooks already being made. Such a collection reminds me of the monumental work, Poetry On Record: 98 Poets Read Their Work (1888-2006). Of course, for Whale Sound, it would be an inversion, more like 98 Poems Read by Nic Sebastian. In her preface, Rebekah Presson Mosby writes of “trends and movements in English language poetry over the past century and a half or so”, as well as “how the style of reading poetry has changed, how technology has influenced the way poetry is performed and, of course, how new technologies have changed the sound of the recorded voice.” I think Whale Sound is doing something that’s already a part of this evolution. And it’ll be lovely to have a documenting of it, of this relationship between text as word and text as sound.

4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience?

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from Fred Moten in his essay “Sound in Florescence”. Here goes a bit of his scholarly rumination: “Words don’t go there: this implies a difference between words and sounds; it suggests that words are somehow constrained by their implicit reduction to the meanings they carry – meanings inadequate to or detached from the objects or states of affairs they would envelop. What’s also implied is an absence of inflection; a loss of mobility, slippage, bend; a missing accent or affect; the impossibility of a slur or crack and the excess – rather than loss – of meaning they imply. Where do words go? Are they the inadequate and residual traces of a ritual performance that is lost in the absence of the recording?” For Whale Sound, the text is offered another ritual presence unto itself. And that can only bode for it a bit more of that rich feeling, the feeling of the performative and the celebratory.

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About Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé.

Desmond’s poem on Whale Sound: Vignette 016

More Whale Sound poet interviews

Whale Sound poet interview – Adele Kenny

1. Please comment on the following:

a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS):My maternal grandmother’s family came from England, and I’ve been especially close to that part of my ancestry all my life. Hearing “The Trains” in Nic’s British voice was like hearing the poem the way it sounds “inside.” Never having heard anyone read one of my poems before, I was very pleasantly startled by Nic’s pauses and modulations in places I hadn’t placed them in my own readings of the work. Nic’s interpretation of the poem introduces a quiet aesthetic and a haunting quality that complements and enhances the content. (If only I could read so beautifully!)

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: While this approach may be, to some extent, limiting, and necessarily excludes poets who are not web-active, the current approach does offer a new kind of web presence for poets whose work appears online. The “playing field” is different, and in my reckoning, vital and refreshing.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: This is a rare and generous approach to submissions — a wider entryway than typically found in print and online poetry journals.

2. What does WS do well? The quality of the poems and their great variety are superb. WS has also created a community of poets and listeners who come together online to share, comment, and hear one another’s work read by one perfect voice.

3. What could WS do better? Keeping up with the volume of poetry has been a challenge at times (I’m sure for Nic too). As already planned, moving to one poem per day will make a difference for those who wish to savor the readings in “single file.”

4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? I’m grateful! Thank you, Nic, for including me!

About Adele Kenny.
Adele’s poem on Whale Sound: The Trains
More Whale Sound poet interviews

Whale Sound audio chapbook: ‘Handmade Boats’ by H. K. Hummel

Whale Sound is very happy to announce the publication of the audio chapbook Handmade Boats by H.K. Hummel. Please go over and have a look-listen!

Here are some process notes from the poet and the editor:

Heather’s experience: I have the habit of tinkering with poems for decades. The poems in Handmade Boats have been in metamorphosis for some time. All that is to say that working back and forth with Nic Sebastian as we did the final shaping of Handmade Boats for Whale Sound was both pleasurable and surprising, because the poems underwent subtle new transformations that I didn’t anticipate.

When I sat down at my desk each morning with a cup of tea, I looked forward to the penetrating questions I’d find in my email inbox. I’d tinker, she’d question, and we’d continue taking turns like that as we fine-tuned the pages. She tucked into the work with such insight it felt as if she was inside the poems with me. At moments, it seemed like we were in one of those plexiglass aquarium tubes where people can walk through and watch hammerhead sharks swimming overhead and on all sides. While I am used to being in the imaginative space of the poem by myself as I watch blue whales and toucans darting past, I don’t know that I’ve ever been in that artistic flow with another person.

As the narrative arc of the chapbook fell into place, the different poems’ narrators began to speak in chorus. I am in love with characters of Handmade Boats–the bagpiper, the bartender and the rubber boot man; I am close to the woman stranded on an island, the girl trapped in the ‘Automat’ and the women bathing in the mineral pools. The characters make up a small town now, a town filled with mythological figures and edged in wilderness.

Listening to the recordings of the poetry is a rare treat for me. The vocal performance reveals the everyday music that exists in our speaking life. Exploring the collection with Nic Sebastian as she gave her skillful voicing to the poems was like participating in a thrilling old-fashioned radio-theater program.

Nic’s experience: I knew as soon as I started reading her chapbook manuscript that Heather’s would be Whale Sound’s first audio chapbook. Knew it with my body rather than my head – with a visceral, physical reaction that I’m sure is familiar to every editor. A reaction based purely and immediately on the words and images presented – before I began to intellectualize about the ideas and themes that ran in her work.

There were basic initial things I knew easily and right away about the manuscript with just eyes & brain: the core work was solid and beautiful, and all that was required to tighten the poems up was the tweaking of a few words or lines here and there, the elimination of a stanza or two.

The deeper story that connected them I did not – could not – know until I had voiced the poems. Very early on, I made draft recordings – nothing good enough to share with Heather, but enough to get me into the skin of the poems (or get the poems into the skin of me). It was making these recordings, and listening to them, that brought me information, not just about the actual sound of the poems and their rhythm, but also about the bigger story – the emotional journey on record, the cross-tracking and cross-hitting themes and memes running through the poems. This in turn gave me very specific ideas about poem order, poem inclusion and poem titling.

It sounds like hocus-pocus, but this really was substantive information voice brought to the process for me. At one point, Heather suggested adding three new poems to the group and asked whether I thought they would work in the group. I said (feeling very lame in my response) that they looked like good additions on the face of it, but I could not really tell until I had voiced the poems. And when I did, I knew quite certainly – and quickly – that two were good additions, while the third was best left to another collection.

I’ve said previously that voice is an organ of investigation – a sense like touch or sight that brings you information – and believe that all the more strongly after this experience.

I’ve loved working with Heather – much enjoyed her maturity and range as an artist, her openness as a human being and the vibrant exchanges we have had as author and editor – and am honored to have had even a small role in bringing these wonderful poems of hers to a wider audience. Thank you, Heather!

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Allan Peterson

1. Please comment on the following:

a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS):The sound of your exceptional voice reading my poem from five years ago brought it to life again, revived and incantatory. I was struck smiling as I listened. Your reading gave the poem the sense of gravity I felt it had when I wrote it.

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: Choosing to focus on web-active poets, WS is helping to even the field between print and the web’s boisterous vitality. Print is necessarily a more restricted audience. As an editor, WS is exercising the vital function of giving some recognition to writers that might be lost in the welter.

More is More, after all, but finding the gems is sometimes harder with the whole world readily at hand.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: It’s a quite a generous thing and rather extraordinary for an editor to open the process up like that. I think anyone would be pleased to have their work recommended and be given the ability to recommend deserving work in turn.

2. What does WS do well? What WS does well is its revival of previously published work, giving poems another life and a wider audience, and having a beautiful resident voice.

3. What could WS do better? I appreciate that the poems are archived, but, from a reader standpoint, I had hoped poems would stay up longer. As an editor, such a rapid turnover must be hard to manage, given the expanding activities of said editor. I know that you’re cutting the postings from two to one a day, but with a blog and now audio chapbooks, that’s still a monumental schedule, is it not? How will you have time for your next five projects? (Editor’s note: You mean like Voice Alpha?? It’s been grueling, but it’s work I enjoy and I’m beginning to find the rhythm and pace needed to keep it all going. The Whale Sound postings go down to one per weekday next week, which will ease things a lot.)

About Allan Peterson.
Allan’s poem on Whale Sound: Self Knowledge
More Whale Sound poet interviews

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Emma Trelles

1. Please comment on the following:

a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): This was the first time I’ve ever had an auditory publication, so to speak, so the idea that my poem could become an acoustic object outside of my own writing life is something I had not previously considered. I like thinking of the poem making its own sound as it moves into the world. And hearing it in another poet’s voice gives me the rare sense of collaboration – something I experienced when I played in a band but not when I’m sitting alone at my desk. I enjoyed hearing Nic’s interpretation, how she added her own pauses and inflections in places I had not considered. Her creative input somehow made the poem larger, or perhaps wider is a better word.

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: I’m of two minds about this decision. First, a publication should have complete autonomy when choosing its aesthetic. In other words, Nic Sebastian/Whale Sound is putting a lot of work into developing a fresh kind of web presence for contemporary poetry, and she should pursue this undertaking however she sees fit. Yet, I worry about exclusion, about poets who are writing fine poems but are not necessarily web active. Should we as readers and listeners overlook these writers? Is this kind of stance in any way similar to the not-so-long ago view that print journals held towards online publications, where the former sort of scoffed at the latter as inconsequential in the larger context of lit publishing? Perhaps these are questions we should mull over as we place our own poems and publish the works of others.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: Love it. This is a great way to share poems that haunt and inspire us, a way of turning others on to new work and opening a dialogue between poets about precedent and reading.

2. What does WS do well? WS has built a virtual and welcoming inn of sorts, with many windows and doors through which poets can enter and congregate with one another. It’s an important community, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

3. What could WS do better? I’d love to see a some selections paired with visual art, or perhaps a special section devoted to poems that are somehow connected to paintings and photographs made by other artists. Moving from sound to image seems like a natural progression for Whale Sound.

4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? Invigorating. Unexpected. Divine.

About Emma Trelles.
Emma’s poem on Whale Sound: The Woman on the Boulevard
More Whale Sound poet interviews

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Cheryl Snell

1. Please comment on the following:a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): Your musicality made it a memorable experience for me. You have quite an instrument there, and your interpretation of Shelter was every bit as full of nuance as I could have wished.

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: This makes sense. Social media helps us gather a bigger audience, and the permanence of our work once it’s on the web anchors its fast-moving aspects.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: Another good idea –introducing new poets is consistent with the most optimistic possibilities of the web.

2. What does WS do well? The quality and variety of the poetry is an achievement in itself. I also like the layout of the site. It’s like a well-lit room, easily navigable.

3. What could WS do better? If it’s sometimes hard for me to keep up with the quantity of poetry, I can only imagine what it must be like for you! (Editor’s note: We know! This coming week is the last week we will be posting two poems a day – starting November 22, we’ll post one reading per weekday. We’re freeing up time to spend on the Whale Sound audio chapbooks initiative!)

4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to participate.

About Cheryl Snell.
Cheryl’s poem on Whale Sound: Shelter
More Whale Sound poet interviews

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Susan Elbe

1. Please comment on the following:a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): It’s enlightening to hear someone else read my poem, particularly someone with Nic’s amazing voice. It’s not how I would have read it and I like that. It helped me to see that the poem and poems in general, at their best, are not static, but mutable. I’m grateful. One always hopes that the poem is more than even the writer knows.

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: I love it! It’s a way to showcase a lot of wonderful work, partly because there’s less upfront work for Nic since the poems can already be found online and linked to, and partly because there is so much great work being done online that it’s difficult to find it. Nic is discriminating in her tastes so we get a lot of the best, I think. I don’t have time to wade through a lot of the dreck. I also like that I’m discovering terrific voices that probably don’t have a chance to be heard in the very limited pages of journals.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: This is brilliant! A great way to build community.

2. What does WS do well? Well, the voice for one thing, but that goes without saying. And Whale Sound is both a poetic and apt name—we are calling to each other across this vast cyber ocean. The concept is genius. Thanks, Nic! I wish I’d thought of it.

3. What could WS do better? Right now, and perhaps this is just my computer, if I open the poem text, I can’t listen to the poem read and vice versa. It would be helpful to have the poem text open in a separate new window so I can read while I’m listening.

Whale Sound is fairly new so I’m thinking that time may take care of how many listeners it gets each day, but with good marketing, I see this as becoming an audio Poetry Daily. The goal should be that we all have Whale Sound as our home page and listen to a poem every morning. I have no words of wisdom as to how to make that happen except for all the writers to “sing” about WS through the cyber ocean and hope that the chorus grows. (Ed: :))

4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? Waving my flukes in thanks!

About Susan Elbe.
Susan’s poem on Whale Sound: How To Fall In Love
More Whale Sound poet interviews

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Collin Kelley

1. Please comment on the following:a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): I’ve heard other people interpret my work, including on my spoken word album HalfLife Crisis, but hearing After Adultery read in a lovely, lilting accent with a different cadence, rhythm and pronunciation was a revelation to me. And that revelation was that Nic Sebastian should read all my poetry.

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: I think Whale Sound’s decision to focus on web active poets is genius. Whether the academic types like it or not, the future of literary magazines and written poetry is on the web. The writing is on the wall…errr…iPad. The poets who are active online are dynamic, forward thinking writers and they have becoming savvy at finding readers and community.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: I think it brings a bit of democracy to the table. People can nominate the poems and poets they love and it doesn’t turn into a narcissism fest.

2. What does WS do well? The site is elegantly simple, easy to navigate, easy to listen to and easy to share with others.

3. What could WS do better? I can’t think of anything at the moment. It seems to be going swimmingly. :)

4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? It really is a treat to get the email alerts and see who Whale Sound is featuring. Some of my favorite poets have been featured and I’m going to submit a few poets myself very soon. So watch out!

About Collin Kelley.
Collin’s poem on Whale Sound: After Adultery
More Whale Sound poet interviews

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Donna Vorreyer

1. Please comment on the following:

a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): I must admit that hearing you read my poem was a bit of a shock. It is an older poem, and I have heard it in my voice for so long that I barely recognized it. I even doubted for a moment that I wrote it! The experience of hearing your work read by others is always interesting, but your careful and thoughtful reading made me experience the poem in a new way. I am often very hard on myself when creating new work – your reading was a wonderful sort of affirmation that the work is worthwhile.

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: I think it is great! Like it or not, the web has become the way that many of us (including myself) are exposed to new poems and poets, and most poets maintain some sort of web presence for networking and/or promotions. Although I love print, I can only afford to subscribe to a few journals a year. I am much more likely to come across new poets/poems on web journals or through my feed reader.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: I love this aspect of the project. My only dilemma has been deciding which poems/poets to suggest to you! I think it would be a great compliment to know that someone liked a poem enough to want to hear it read and archived somewhere. Sometimes promoting the work of other poets can become a little (for lack of a better word) incestuous, with little clusters of bloggers or geographically-grouped writers cross-promoting only each other. This offers the opportunity for writers to branch out, to say, “I loved this poem – I would love to hear what Nic would do with it.”

2. What does WS do well? I’m truly not sucking up when I say just about everything. The interface is easy, providing direct access to both the recording and the original link to the text, as well as other ways to find the poet online. This helps to continue the experience the listener has on Whale Sound by offering additional opportunities to hear/view the writer’s work. And the recordings are not only high-quality, they are well-practiced and offer nuance and interpretation that open my mind as a reader to work that may not have caught my eye on the page. Online communities (like the now -defunct ReadWritePoem or its offspring Big Tent Poetry) provide ways for poets to connect, especially those of us who work full-time in non-literary professions. Whale Sound adds another voice (a wonderful, elegant one) to the poetry landscape of the internet. I always have time to listen to a poem, even if I don’t have time to scan online journals for new work or visit my favorite blogs.

3. What could WS do better? So far, I really can’t think of anything. Perhaps create a badge that Whale Sound poets could use on their own blogs to promote you? You have done so much to put our work in the world that we could return the favor…

4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? I try to be especially attentive to sound when I write, so the regular experience of hearing poetry read aloud so well has only served to confirm my interest in this aspect of writing. I look forward to listening to every new post.

About Donna Vorreyer.
Donna’s poem on Whale Sound: Of Dark, Of Light
More Whale Sound poet interviews

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Dana Guthrie Martin

1. Please comment on the following:
a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS):
I loved it! You actually pronounced my maiden name, Guthrie, incorrectly. I didn’t tell you, though, because I adored the way it sounded. You made me feel exotic, and it’s not often that one feels exotic when hearing one’s own name. I like to walk around now pretending my maiden name is pronounced the way you said it — that first syllable with the gooey-chewy center your pronunciation bestows. (Ed: We apologize, Dana! That was in the early days, before we learned to be much more careful about asking people how their name is pronounced. If you want us to go back and correct it, just say the word!)

And of course the way you read the entire poem was outstanding. I hate to say people are born to do this or that or be this or that, but I think you might have been born to — at least among other things — read poems aloud and edit a sound-based literary journal. Has that thought crossed your mind, and does the possibility both excite and scare you? (Ed: *thinking*)

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: Every time I see the phrase “web-active poets,” I misread it as “sex-active poets,” and then I think, “Where is Nic going to find any poets who are sexually active? I mean, let’s face it — poets aren’t getting any.” Then I realize what you actually mean, and it all makes a lot more sense. Yes! Focus on web-active poets. By all means.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: This is something I have advocated for in various online spheres such as Facebook, and it is a practice I have undertaken for several years. If I (really, really) like someone’s work, and I know they haven’t been sending anything out, I will send some of their poems to a journal editor who I think would like their work, too. This probably annoys the editor in question, but I don’t care. Editors were born to be annoyed, so my actions are simply helping them do what they are already inclined to do.

I think all journals should adopt a third-party submission policy. I don’t see any reason not to accept work by those who appreciate it and want to see it out in the world, and I don’t see any reason for poets to not forward the fantastic work they read — as much as, if not more than, they forward their own work. We’re not here to advance ourselves, at least that’s not the only reason we are here. We are here to advance poetry. We need to understand that our poetry isn’t the only poetry, and that our poetry isn’t the work that will always be showcased.

In my mind, there’s a kind of letting go, a kind of acknowledgment, in sending out someone else’s work. It’s a way of honoring the fact that there’s a sandbox and we’re not the only ones in it. I will say, however, that when I send out someone else’s work and it is rejected, that stings in a way that it doesn’t when my own work is rejected. Rejections of other people’s work can put me in a funk for days.

Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? I don’t actually think editors are born to be annoyed, and I don’t think all editors are in fact annoyed. I know many kind and patient ones who are never annoyed, at least not with me, at least not that I know of. You never seem to be annoyed, Nic. Even if you were, you would still have that lovely voice which would be a pleasure to listen to, no matter what tone it happens to carry. I also think all editors, especially those like you who volunteer your time, should be thanked for their work in supporting and promoting poetry. Thank you, Nic, for what you are doing for the poetry community and the larger community. (Ed: :))

About Dana Guthrie Martin.
Dana’s poem on Whale Sound: Hallucination #1
More Whale Sound poet interviews.

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Nicholas Liu

1. Please comment on the following:

a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): Some of Nic’s choices (regarding pace, emphasis, etc.) seem to me to run against the grain of the poem’s current lineation and syntax—and I like those choices so much that I’m now considering changing the grain of the poem to suit. In short, it’s made me reconsider how I want the poem to sound in the first place. 

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: As a “web-active poet”, thrilled. As a reader, less so. One of the joys of Whale Sound is how it brings to my attention, through the democratic, flattening channel of a human voice, poets and poems which I might otherwise never come across. Obvious, but it deserves saying. Considering that blogs and online magazines are two of the main routes by which I discover non-Mega Famous poets, it seems to me all the more important that venues like Whale Sound remain open to–or indeed, seek out–poets who aren’t otherwise active in those media. How else will I get to read them?

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: A very clever idea. It turns every reader into an assistant acquisitions editor. What’s not to like?

2. What does WS do well? What it says on the tin. Here is a fascinating, diverse sampling of poems read by an excellent, sensitive reader. That much is poetry; the rest is marketing.

3. What could WS do better? Whale Sound may be a hit among poets, but is it a hit among readers? The significant disparity between the page view counts of different poems suggests to me that there may not be that many dedicated “Whale Sound readers/listeners”, though there are plenty of “poet X readers who’ve been directed here by poet X’s big blog/Twitter/FB page”. It reminds me of a blog I used to write that received a couple thousand visitors a day, almost all of them readers of other, bigger blogs who arrived on mine via linklogs and such. I had a decent number of eyeballs on each post, yet very few people who could actually be said to follow my blog. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it would be fantastic if WS could build a core of readers/listeners who listen to a poem *because it’s on WS*, not because they saw the poem’s author plug the poem elsewhere. How to convert the latter into the former is the problem every web editor faces.

4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? Before submitting, prepare yourself for a steep drop in your satisfaction with your own readings of your poems. Hearing your own poem read well by someone else is–or can be–a much needed kick in the ass, especially for those of us whose words live mainly on the page or screen.

About Nicholas Liu.
Nicholas’ poem on Whale Sound: Here Is Your Word List For The Week, Good Luck

More Whale Sound poet interviews.

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Kathleen Kirk

1. Please comment on the following:

a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): I love hearing your voice do my poem The Way Back, so thank you, thank you, thank you! Sometimes I come listen to it just to get chills. My friends love it, too. It was all so easy, as you recommended the poem you wanted to read, and I was delighted, considering it a sort of persona poem. That is, while I do love cemeteries and do shop for postage stamps, I tend not to get in cars* with possible serial killers. So hearing your voice create the character of the speaker was a thrill.

*Ask me how I met my husband. (It involved the words, “Get in.” I did not “get in.”)

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: It seems perfectly reasonable and appropriate to work with web-accessible poets and poems—to have the text available at an online magazine or blog helps draw attention to those ways of publishing or promoting poetry, and fits your own project, which is online. I think it also promotes hearing poems, and a collaboration among sites and venues that provide that. Being able to hear and see is good.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: I love that we can recommend other poets/poems to you, and I’ve done so. Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading Ron Hardy’s A Wind Disorder in your lovely slightly eerie voice.

Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? All around, yours is a generous, friendly, exciting adventure. I feel honored to be a Whale Sound poet, and I have Whale Sound and Very Like a Whale in my blogroll, so anyone who stumbles on my blog can also stumble over to you!

About Kathleen Kirk.
Kathleen’s poem on Whale Sound: The Way Back

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Rebecca Loudon

1. Please comment on the following:

a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS): I thought the experience was delightful. Not only was it fun to hear my poem read by someone with a beautiful voice, but I learned from the poem, I learned (more) about the poem by hearing Nic’s interpretation.

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: I think these are the poets who would most be interested in having their work read on the web. If they’re not web-active how would they know about WS? I may be ignorant about what you mean by web-active.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: I honestly didn’t know there was a submissions policy until now. I think one thing would be to make that more well known, perhaps listed on one of the poetry list-serves. Other than that the experience was entirely positive and fun.

About Rebecca Loudon.
Rebecca’s poem on Whale Sound: An Ode to Drunkenness and Other Criminal Activities

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Greg Sellers

(An occasional series, with a standing page on Whale Sound. If you’re a Whale Sound poet and would like to participate, please email me your responses to the questions below at nic_sebastian at hotmail dot com

1. Please comment on the following:
a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS):
Just hearing Nic read What the Winds Says aloud was an enjoyable, learning experience in itself. It opened my eyes, (or should I say, “ears”) to how individualistically someone else can interpret one’s lines. It reminded me, in a concrete, audible way, of how tone and tempo can also contribute to the listener’s understanding of the line or poem. In a sense, it provided a new layer of feeling & meaning that the poem’s originator had not fully realized before.

Hearing someone else read What the Wind Says also amplified the poem’s strengths and weaknesses by removing the creator’s inner voice, which can often mask such attributes and deficiencies. This is a good reason alone for a poet to find someone else to read his or her drafts aloud during the revision process.

Having Whale Sound select and read What the Wind Says reintroduced the work to a new audience; it revived a previously published print poem that had been linked on the Web many years ago. What poet would not be pleased with having one’s work renewed?

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: Whale Sound‘s decision to focus only on web-active poets is helping to lend credence to electronically published verse and to promote its format. I do hope my initial statement will not be misconstrued, for I am not suggesting that electronically published verse is inferior to its traditional print counterpart. But until this recent popularity wave for all things social media, a certain undercurrent did exist, which perpetuated the idea that verse published electronically often lacked a “certain standard” of quality and was considered amateurish (I’m referring here to electronic work that’s self-published and exists outside the realm of e-zines and online versions of traditional literary journals).

However, this attitude appears to be changing today, as evident in the number of established poets and writers who now showcase their own literary works via Websites and Weblogs, as well as the professionalism demonstrated by Whale Sound and other editor-managed online poetry sites to select and publish quality verse. By focusing on web-active poets, Whale Sound is able to lead readers to accessible, virtual works that tangibly counter this previous mindset.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: Providing a third-party submission policy gives “readership” a participatory role into the submission process and also expands the “pool” of potential work to be considered for publication. The World Wide Web is an expansive, electronic universe, which makes it virtually (no pun attended) impossible for any one individual to browse a significant portion of it. A third-party submissions policy helps to address this concern and also alerts Whale Sound to electronic verse (in its typed form) that has memorably “spoken to” its reader.

2. What does WS do well? First and foremost, Whale Sound provides its listener a unique, audio-poetry experience. It is evident that great attention and care go into the recording of each audio-poem. Besides having an incredible reading voice, Nic Sebastian knows how to accentuate the sonic and “caesuric” aspects of a poem through phrasing, inflection, intonation, and diction without ever forcing these devices. The “sake of sound” prevails in a very natural way.

The poet bios & related Web links are also added bonuses that I’m sure WS readers appreciate.

3. What could WS do better? Whale Sound may want to reconsider the frequency of time by which it posts a new set of poems. Showcasing a group of poems for only one day before replacing it with another may be limiting the chances for some poems to be read. Granted, an archive does exist, but PLE (principle of least effort) comes into play here. There is definitely a nice advantage to having one’s poem selected for Friday’s posting as compared to one of the other weekdays. (Editor’s note: Wow, I hadn’t considered that. I know that numbers go down considerably over the weekend, but have not noticed that Friday has a particular spike. Will pay attention to that!)

4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? Whale Sound reinforces the importance of reading a poem aloud by reminding us of the pleasure and added interpretative dimension that such an act can bring.

About Greg Sellers.
Greg’s poem on Whale Sound: What the Wind Says

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Nancy Devine

(An occasional series, with a standing page on Whale Sound. If you’re a Whale Sound poet and would like to participate, please email me your responses to the questions below at nic_sebastian at hotmail dot com.)

1. Please comment on the following:
a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS):
When I first heard my poem, ‘Kingdom,” on Whale Sound, I thought “Did I write that? Yes, I think I wrote that.” Before this recording, I’d never heard anyone read my work….never anyone but me. It was really exciting for me.

I know that many people like to hear poems. Usually I prefer reading poems, seeing line breaks and white space, considering how words are positioned on the page. But my own work being read by another person really grabbed me. I’m sure there’s a bit of ego in it, though I hope it’s more like pride. I do wonder how it would be to have an autobiographical poem read by someone other than me. My poem at Whale Sound is not autobiographical in any way I’m aware of.

Whale Sound has really whetted my appetite for listening to poems. I feel like I can hang out in the poems recorded there, like they are rooms I can visit from time to time.

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: I have a particular fondness for web-active poets, because those I’ve come to know a bit are generous, thoughtful, productive and accessible to me through blogs and websites.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: Third-party submissions, for me, mean that I can submit work I admire, and that that work can reach a new audience through Whale Sound. I submitted work by someone who’s a terrific poet but also a real champion of poetry online. (Editor’s note: That would be Erin Elizabeth Smith. Thanks, Nancy!)

2. What does WS do well? Poems online become new when they’re read out loud. To have that newness captured on Whale Sound is really exciting for poets and readers.

3. What could WS do better? The work that it takes to maintain Whale Sound must be exhausting. I hope Nic Sebastian doesn’t burn out. (Editor’s note: She won’t! But she may eventually reduce current volume from two posts per weekday to one post per weekday. We’ll see how it goes.)

4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? Because a poem of mine is at Whale Sound, I feel an allegiance to the site and a renewed energy about the possibility of poetry and community online.

About Nancy Devine.
Nancy’s poem on Whale Sound: Kingdom

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Sherry O’Keefe

(An occasional series, with a new standing page on Whale Sound. If you’re a Whale Sound poet and would like to participate, please email me your responses to the questions below at nic_sebastian at hotmail dot com.)

1. Please comment on the following:
a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS):
Hearing At Ruby’s Diner read aloud by you shed new light on my poem. I could hear the poem in my head, but hearing it in your voice gave me new ideas for future poems. Having my poem shared in this way on Whale Sound gave my poem new “shelf life”. It had been published in a wonderful print journal out of Chicago, Fifth Wednesday Journal. Anyone who purchased the issue will have this poem available anytime they want to read it. Let me say, I love the world of print. My house is filled with shelves and stacks of books. I don’t want that to go away. But I also don’t want my poem to go away, either. Thanks to Whale Sound, this poem has been heard over and over again. Whale Sound has given it a new audience. I’ve appreciated the exposure Whale Sound has given this poem. (Big Thanks!)

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: I applaud this decision! As many books and journals of poetry I have stacked at home, poetry on the web is more accessible. When I come across a poem or journal that excites me, I can immediately click on more links to either more journals or poems, or to blogs that can lead me to more poems and more journals. It never ends. If WS features a poem I can only find in hard copy somewhere, chances are the same journey which happens with a web-poem may end before it has a chance to begin. Poetry sparks and begats other sparks. The web is a wonderful tool to enable all that begatting (so to speak!)

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: I have a hard time mixing po-business with writing poetry. Having a third party suggest my work to WS lets me keep my focus on writing poetry. This move towards third-party submission rocks!

2. What does WS do well? Your love of poetry is infectious. WS offers work I might not have considered before and your reading of each poem almost always presents a new POV for me to consider. WS helps the world of poetry expand rather than shrink. I like receiving emails each time a new poem is up. I appreciate the links provided in the bios and archives that lead me to each poet’s website or blog. In this way, the poem leads to a poet, a journal, a website, a blog. Endless possibilities.

3. What could WS do better? I bet the day will come when I’ll be able to purchase a collection of WS’s recordings (!)

(Editor’s note: Whale Sound is available as a downloadable iTunes podcast (subscribe) – you can burn your own CD for free using iTunes.)

4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? As the poetry world debates the merits of print versus on-line – Whale Sound reminds us poetry is based on sound. (As poetry editor for Soundzine, an on-line journal dedicated to the spoken word, I especially appreciate this.) Listening to the poems at WS helps me appreciate more poetry, and helps me as I reconsider the many poems of my own sitting on the backburner.

Sherry’s poem on Whale Sound: At Ruby’s Diner
About Sherry O’Keefe.

Interview with Whale Sound poet – Michael Wells

(An occasional series, with a new standing page on Whale Sound. If you’re a Whale Sound poet and would like to participate, please email me your responses to the questions below at nic_sebastian at hotmail dot com.)

1. Please comment on the following:
a. The experience of hearing your poem on Whale Sound (WS):
The experience of hearing my poem on Whale Sound reaffirmed my faith in the poem itself. I wrote this poem some time ago. Something like 3 + years ago and when you asked to run it I said yes but in a mental pause I thought… I’ve written much better stuff since those days. Whale Sound reminded me what I saw in the poem to start with.

On occasion I meet with other poets who’ll exchange poems and read each others work aloud and it’s always interesting to hear your poem read by someone else. Still, this experience felt different than any of those readings. You have a marvelous reading voice – one that distinctly informs the interpretation of a poem. Since I feel the value of poetry relies upon the collaborative relationship between the poet’s creation and the reader’s insight into what is on the page, I felt this was an exciting marriage of the two.

b. The WS decision to focus only on web-active poets: Who knows what the shape of public perspective on traditional vs electronic publication will be like 5 years, 10 years from now. There are clearly many quality examples of creative writing and poetry online today. I like the possibility of seeing more such work recognized.

c. The WS third-party submissions policy: Like it! I enjoy the ability to recommend another artist and their work for such recognition. I also thinks it says something when another person then the author makes the recommendation.

2. What does WS do well? You’ve done an excellent job of showcasing the individual poet’s work. Allowing for comments, tweets, the quality of the recordings all are invaluable.

3. What could WS do better? I wish I could suggest something – but frankly you are already doing it all. Maybe if you could create a button of the poem that a poet could add to their blog or web page that played their poem in the page but also had a link back to Whale Sound.

4. Anything else you’d like to say about the WS experience? Just that It’s something I go to almost daily because It gives me great exposure to other poets. It’s always fun to see someone you know on Whale Sound, but a real bonus to learn about another really great poet talent that you would not have experienced otherwise.

About Michael Wells.
Michael’s poem on Whale Sound: The Cousin