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.

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.

5 thoughts on “Interview with Whale Sound poet – Nicholas Liu”

  1. Great answers! My favorite one of these interviews yet. Very interested especially in the bit about arrangement on the page (1a).

    I guess I am in that minority of listeners who visits regularly and listens to every poem eventually. My one slightly critical comment, Nic, is that the current pace of two a day makes it a bit more challenging to catch up on the weekends — but your readings are so wonderful, the payoff is huge.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Dave. A big yes on (1a). I recently got a submission from an experimental poet and we’ve been dialoguing. One of my points of interest is just that — import of arrangement on the page. I’m hoping to persuade the poet to post an edited version of our dialogue as part of WS process notes.

    On the Whale Sound pace — yes, there will be changes! I figured any start-up needs to blitz initially and WS has been doing just that, but I’m definitely looking at ratcheting things down to no more than one poem a weekday, probably by mid-November. (Mainly because I have another WS off-shoot project I need time for! More on that fairly soon.)

  3. i’m a daily follower and find a few WS poems each day satisfying. my days are such that i am not able to read and listen to as much poetry as i’d like. i’ve come to count on new work at WS as a springboard leading me to the work of more poets and journals. each day provides a new adventure/discovery.

    nicholas’s answer to 1a is great: In short, it’s made me reconsider how I want the poem to sound in the first place.

  4. Thanks, Dave and Sherry, and thanks to Nic for making everything happen. I’m glad you found reading this worthwhile.

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