Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Future of Poetry?

Yesterday a young, female MIS (management information systems) professor who says she likes poetry was kind enough to purchase a copy of my book, Riverfall. We chatted for a bit about the future of poetry. She thinks poetry is on the decline, both in quantity and quality, tending now toward song lyrics.

She was surprised when I told her that more books of poetry were published (by small presses) in 2004 than any other year in history (at least our history of counting these kinds of things). She was skeptical on the quality of poetry available online (disheartening to me, of course, as the editor of Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments). We left it at that, but I realize I'll have to work on her the next time I see her!

In my opinion, the future of poetry (not to mention the present tense of poetry) has never been brighter. Poetry has never been more accessible, both for readers and writers. Poetry tools have never been more acccessible for teachers---both those teaching poetry itself and the general English/literature instructor at all levels.

The courier of all this poetry content is undoubtedly the Internet---be it blogs like this one, ezines, discussion forums, online resources like those from the Academy of American Poets and Poets & Writers magazine, and much more. We're also seeing a digital synthesis of the written and spoken word with Flash-based and other kinds of movies (see Born Magazine, for instance).

While in the professor's opinion, I suppose, there's an awful lot to wade through, the good resources, journals, forums, and the like filter to the top because of the viral nature of the Internet. Take, for example, the new blog/ezine Little Emerson, launched just yesterday but mentioned already on a number of poets' blogs (and here now, too!). There's absolutely no poetry content there yet, but already a buzz has been created. If it turns out good, expect more buzz. If not, it will slip to the depths of the Internet ocean like so many other bottom-dwelling organisms.

And I get to be the lucky guy (among others, in different locales, undoubtedly) who gets to lead a workshop on all this viral excitement: "Writing the Infosphere: Poetry, the Web, and You," which I'll be teaching in Spring 2006 through the UA Poetry Center. I can't wait to fully begin my research for that 6-week workshop.

Actually, I already have started research, by putting together a survey of online poetry. Won't you take it now, at http://www.ocotillodesign.com/terrain/survey? My goal is to get 100 poets to complete the survey (about 35 responses have been received so far)---providing a sound base not only for the course, but (more importantly, perhaps) for an article on online poetry resources.

So, what's the future of poetry look like to you?

Simmons

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