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.

Published by

Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

21 thoughts on “poets & their web presence”

  1. I like your thinking here. There’s no doubt that qarrtsiluni gets the most page-views on days when we publish poets with popular blogs or an active presence on Facebook or listservs. And the more they link, the better your Google juice, which among other things increases the possibility of reaching that elusive, quasi-mythical General Poetry-reading Audience. (Which is why I strongly favor webzines over ezines in PDF or other formats.)

    1. It’s a weird calculus for posting, I find — grouping postings to reach a balance between web-active and web-averse poets that will keep the site’s hits more or less steady. It’s quite a free ride for the web-averse, now I think about it!

  2. Nic-
    I can’t begin to imagine the amount of word Whale Sound takes.
    I finally got my mom to take a listen to my work on Whale Sound. (She rarely goes on the Internet and, if she does, someone has to help her.) She was quite tickled with your reading.
    Certainly Whale Sound is reaching those of us who are online a lot. But it’s also getting to people who almost never are online unless they are repeatedly pestered by their daughter. :)

    1. Yay for you and your mom, Nancy! It is quite a bit of work but I hope I’m not coming across as complaining — just trying to think of ways to be as efficient/effective as possible, given that there are so only so many hours in the day and that, like most people, I have a job and family to think about.

  3. I can only imagine the amount of note-making and email sorting it takes to chase down a poet and/or get permission for a poem. I wouldn’t do it – I have a hard enough time keeping track of myself, and there’s so much good poetry out there for the asking.

    1. Hey Sarah – I feel that Whale Sound needs both the solicitations and the submissions, so am happy to take on the task of getting poet permissions, but I do want avoid situations where it becomes drawn-out and onerous. A quick email and/or Facebook request to a responsive web-active poet is about as much as I want to put into the permission-getting process.

  4. You are doing a great job, and thank you for all that work. I think the collective sharing of poetry and information has been great. I hope more poets will submit their own poems and the work of others, providing the contact info and permissions all at the same time, as well as the link to the work online!

    1. heh – wouldn’t that be great! Actually, I’m fine with getting the permission myself (I don’t want third-party submitters to have to go to that trouble in case the poem is not accepted). But links and contact info are great!

  5. This is such a wonderful project. And Nic, I absolutely love listening to your voice reading these poems. You do them great justice, and yes, they are amazing work. I come here often. I wonder whether I am missing a “like” button on my browser, I know it is a cop-out, but I don’t always have a comment, but wish I could push the like button often.

  6. I agree – Nic, you are creating a new and wonderful thing here. There is so much great work available online, so the hassle of permissions is one you shouldn’t have to have. Also, with the ease of creating blogs/websites these days, it’s almost silly as a writer NOT to have one, both in order to join in the community that exists here online and to point people toward poetry (your own or that of others.)

    1. Hi Donna – so nice to hear from you. We all make choices about how we want to embrace (or not) technology and social media, and there is sound and excellent reasoning behind almost every position. I think Whale Sound hasn’t really thought through exactly where *its* position is, but things are becoming a bit clearer. The Whale Sound motif is “celebrating your poems.” Given everything, 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…

  7. It is very hard to have others link to anything. Even when you give them instructions, hold their hand, tweet them, facebook them, build them a beautiful layout, place their voice on their page, paint them a portrait or give them a cookie!

    I have known for over a decade.

    It is a miracle I am still doing this.

  8. Hey, Nic. Did you know that, according to the RikVerse copyrights page, you don’t need to contact me to use any of my poems for the Whale Sound project? You don’t even need to tell me you’ve done it – though learning about how others are using my stuff is cool. As is the cross-promotional opportunities, of course.

    I love those creative commons licencing thingies; I wish more poets loved them as much as I do.

    1. I do too, Rik! I realize that in many cases I don’t legally need permission, but like to get it anyway in all cases as a courtesy and in the name of good feeling all round. Great to hear from you as always, Nic

      1. When I started with miPOradio we had a podcast where we would read poems of others that we thought were great and wanted to give them more attention and one or two poets (I will not name names but one of them is in Whale Sounds) bluntly said to me “what gives you the right…blah blah blah” — needless to say it can become a bit tedious trying to explain all of it. I simply stopped offering attention to some poets after that.

  9. Yes, I think people do need to feel they have control/choice with regard to their poems – even if it’s not legally-enforceable control. Once a reading is up at the site I always email the poet to say: “The Whale Sound guarantee is that if you hate it, we’ll take it down.” No-one has asked to have anything taken down yet, but I wouldn’t hesitate if they did.

  10. So how do I submit poetry and become a WeActive poet? I know M E Hope and her poetry and others here.

  11. So how do I submit poetry and become a WebActive poet? I know M E Hope and her poetry and others here.

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