on locking up poems

Poems locked up in hard-copy print editions only available for sale are struggling in new and serious ways, while poems delivered in multiple creative ways online have new leases on life and are reaching an ever-widening audience.

Nice article at the Best American Poetry blog on poetry collaboration & technology by Rachel Blarenbat. Short interview with me as part of it, and of course I had to make my favorite point.

multi-format poetry publishing!

I am beyond thrilled to see this great initiative from Dave Bonta. He has collected twelve very romantic poems into a chapbook called Twelve Simple Songs, and has made it available as:

regular PDF download
an Issuu digital chapbook
an MP3 download
– and coming up: in print from a new POD service, Peecho

How awesome is that?! We, as potential readers, are asked ‘how do you like your poetry served?’ and we get some choices. I, for one, went for the regular PDF download, because honestly, I find Issuu aggravating to use. The chapbook looks really beautiful on my iPad in my iBooks reader, and is a breeze to read. Others will prefer the Issuu version, others the MP3 audio download, and others still, the upcoming print version. Some may want more than one version. By catering to all these different preferences, and by eschewing the profit motive (digital versions are free and the print version will be sold at cost), Dave has exponentially increased his poems’ chances of getting read.

A quick suggestion: Dave might at some point want to consider putting together a mini-website for Twelve Simple Songs, a place where he can consolidate the links to the different formats for future traffic and search engine huntings. As I mentioned in this 2011 post entitled another advantage of multi-format publishing, the beauty of a website for a chapbook or collection is that you can add things to the work as they happen – if someone writes a review, for example, or expands both the work’s content and its modes of expression by making a videopoem based on one or more of the poems.

Congratulations, Dave, on this tender collection and thanks for sharing it so generously.

Other relevant multi-format publishing posts from the Very Like A Whale archive:

Want poetry readers? publish in multiple formats, some free
Multi-format poetry publishing – production steps

revisiting ten questions for poets – on poetry, publication, technology

This series represents a wealth of poetry and po-biz wisdom from a bunch of awesome contemporary poets. I used to have these linked as separate standing pages, but didn’t refresh that format when I changed blog themes recently. Have just added these standing pages back to the left-hand column, and got lost in re-reading while I did so. Thank you once again to the generous poets who participated for doing so! That wonderful group includes Ron Silliman and the late Reginald Shepherd.

poets on poetry
poets on publication
poetry editors on publishing poetry
poets on technology

Whale Sound

I have read others’ work for different publications (here and here, for example), in addition to reading my own work for different publications (e.g. here and here).

Reading other peoples’ work aloud is the most tender and respectful, and also the most careful, way to engage with it, I find.

So here’s my new idea.

It’s going to start slowly. I’ve decided I will only read and record poems that sing to me. To me. Not my stuff, though – yours.

There will be a link to text if the poems are available online, but I won’t be posting any text. Just voice.

I’ll be out looking for those poems. So don’t be surprised to hear from me soon, asking if you would let me record and post that brilliant piece of yours that ran in Magazine X last week.

Bad News in Technology: Writing Invented

Socrates, in Plato’s Phaedrus, laments the advent of writing, saying “.. this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory.”

I heard, then, that at Naucratis, in Egypt, was one of the ancient gods of that country, the one whose sacred bird is called the ibis, and the name of the god himself was Theuth. He it was who invented numbers and arithmetic and geometry and astronomy, also draughts and dice, and, most important of all, letters. Now the king of all Egypt at that time was the god Thamus, who lived in the great city of the upper region, which the Greeks call the Egyptian Thebes, and they call the god himself Ammon. To him came Theuth to show his inventions, saying that they ought to be imparted to the other Egyptians. But Thamus asked what use there was in each, and as Theuth enumerated their uses, expressed praise or blame, according as he approved or disapproved. The story goes that Thamus said many things to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts, which it would take too long to repeat; but when they came to the letters, “This invention, O king,” said Theuth, “will make the Egyptians wiser and will improve their memories; for it is an elixir of memory and wisdom that I have discovered.” But Thamus replied, “Most ingenious Theuth, one man has the ability to beget arts, but the ability to judge of their usefulness or harmfulness to their users belongs to another; and now you, who are the father of letters, have been led by your affection to ascribe to them a power the opposite of that which they really possess. For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise.”

(Hat tip: Joe and his comment on yesterday’s post.)

poets and technology – the thesaurus?

I’m probably going to come across as a cave-person, but I confess it’s only been about a year and a half since I started using a thesaurus while writing poetry. And I never used a book thesaurus – went straight to the online thesaurus. I’m pretty sure it’s made a huge difference to the speed and facility of my writing. I always know the right word as soon as I see it in a thesaurus, but I don’t always have all the available words immediately accessible in my own mind. The thesaurus brings that pool to me instantly, with almost no effort on my part. Pre-thesaurus, I suppose I must have either gone with less than optimal word choices, or waited around for time to push the right word up to the surface.

Of course, there are two issues here – one revolves around the question of using a thesaurus at all, and the other around using an online version rather than a book version. The second is obviously by far the least significant – a question not of paradigm shift but of degree of convenience.

But now I’m wondering what the the invention of the thesaurus (Roget’s, the first one, was only published in 1852) did for poetry? How many poets use a thesaurus when composing? The reason I think it’s significant is because I recall this paragraph cited in this post (am substituting ‘poetry’ for ‘music’ – italics mine):

…human composers draw on a huge amount of data when they sit down to write a piece of music. “We don’t start with a blank slate,” [Cope] said. “In fact, what we do in our brains is take all the music we’ve heard in our life, segregate out what we don’t like, and try to replicate [the music we like] while making it our own.” What separates great composers from the rest of us, he says, is the ability to accurately compile that database, remember it, and manipulate it into new patterns.

In other words, the more that your accessible memory contains, the bigger your advantage as a composer. Surely that principle applies to words, the raison d’etre of poetry?

The thesaurus comes along as a big cheat, then – like a sort of external hard drive, or additional RAM purchased on the side. It gives would-be poets with smaller natural RAMs – who would have been non-competitive or less competitive in pre-thesaurus days – the same advantage as their more gifted peers with huge natural RAMs.

Works for me!

What if the Facebook (Un)Privacy Revolution Is a Good Thing?

The truth is that the events of the past few weeks have been no accident. I’ve interviewed Zuckerberg and/or members of his team more than a dozen times in the last three years, and I believe they all completely understood the company’s new privacy settings would be controversial. Indeed, I think they intended them to be controversial. Look back at the history of Facebook’s privacy firestorms — they happen roughly every 18 months — and you’ll see they all fit the same pattern. In order for Facebook to succeed, it needs to keep challenging existing conventions about online privacy. This isn’t a secret. Zuckerberg has said it many times. What he hasn’t said – but which he and anyone else with a brain knows – is that there is no way to do that without making some users angry.