Friday, April 14, 2006

Poetry online - the question

Is it achieving critical mass, in terms of respectability? Are we yet at the point where you would rather publish in an admired zine than one of the gazillion print journals that increasingly no one but contributors read?

In my case, the local poetry community is lively, determinedly neo-Beat and impenetrable. Too many poets trying to get too many readings too few poets attend, unless Robert Hass or Jane Hirschfield might be there, etc., etc. It's a distinctly clubby atmosphere -- odd for supposed Bohemians, and I don't mean the kind that hang out at the Bohemian Club (or do I?). I've been invited to do few readings and the audiences have been sparse, unless I brought my own.

Contrast that with the democratic, lively, determinedly non-poetically partisan atmosphere that prevails on the Web. Zines abound and are mostly hungry for good work, especially hungry to convert print poets to online poets. With email, it's easy to strike up acquaintances that can even deepen into virtual literary friendships based on dialogues about poems.

Sound like the poetry world dream machine? Except for the lack of pay, I think it is. And since when did pay matter in the poetry world? (Except for professorships, I get that. But for the rest of us.)

I'd like to hear what others have to say. Are we finally at the turning point? Or does online poetry still have far to go in terms of garnering critical respectability?