Broken Links

So asks, my virtual friend Ren Powell, "What is it to be a poet in this world? International, intercultural, intergenerational. Virtual."

I've been thinking about all those nexus points (and they're hardly points, but more like moving, rotating, vibrating, disappearing, reappearing quantum strings) and poetry.  I recall how thrilling it was for me with my first "virtual publication" in 1998, in the Southern Ocean Review, out of New Zealand, something now available only at this link on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.  It gave me a sense that my work could be global, accessible anywhere, available for the ages! 

Of course, so much of my work has electronically evaporated, from so many updates, new URLs, and scrubbed pages.  I've been erased from Wikipedia, from one of my publishers, from grant agencies, from universities.  Holy broken links!

How to build any kind of community on that?  Which makes the nostalgia of this endeavor of the poetry blog revival all the sweeter, all the more futile, and all the more beautiful.  

I was very, very late to Twitter, but once I latched on, I saw a vibrant, diverse, and engaged set of poets.  I initially followed old poet friends, and then I started to pick up all these new voices.  At first, yes, I was dismissive of it all, from the registering of liking and retweeting of tweets, all about instantaneous, mindless, and cost-free feedback, to the humble-bragging about followers-to-following ratios. I wondered if Kaveh Akbar ever read a book a poetry without his phone ready to snap a new favorite stanza.  I wasn't sure what to think about Jericho Brown's latest report of his body-fat percentage.  And yet, poets like Akbar, Brown, Eve Ewing, Danez Smith, Shaindel Beers were not only accomplished in their craft, beyond woke in their politics, and genuinely enthusiastic about their art, but were challenging me to love more and assume less.  These poets were kicking my ass.

Soon, the nosiness was rather pleasing to me, even with all the self-promotion, because it was this deep buzz of human activity.  It was also useful for me to remember that these poets had much more serious, deeper engagements with their craft than their latest tweet-storm, and that the twittersphere is just one access point.  It's also useful to remember just how lonesome poetry writing can be, which is another quality that I do love about it, and Twitter is one means to connect.

But the meanness and self-importance of Twitter, the toxicity and the daily Trump dump, and the limits of threading "conversations," they all induce me to take breaks from it.  And then I'll pick up Shaindel Beer's The Children's War, a book that has deeply influenced a play I drafted this Fall, a book and poet I got to know only through social media, and a book that gives me the real, deep, and human news that I must read over and over.

And I can't wait for her new book, Secure Your Own Mask, to come out.


ren powell said…
I love Shaindel Beers' writing. I have a feeling this years blog revival is going to be expensive!
Anonymous said…
I'm so flattered! Thank you both!