The Wednesday Five

Another week has passed, and here we’ve arrived at the next five poetry recommendations:

1. Writers’ Cafe

I like to think of this site as Facebook for writers. It’s basically a social networking/blog-hosting community that is geared toward poets and authors of all kinds. The Contests section of the site is the most original part, allowing anyone who has an account to issue various writing challenges. If you’re looking to build a community with like-minded poets, this is the place for you.

2. Book Beast

While not technically a poetry site, this newish section of The Daily Beast’s popular news site is a one-stop shop for all kinds of literary information. Book Beast was one of the first places to break the story that Hudson River hero Sully Sullenberger would get a two-book deal, one of which would be a collection of poetry.

3. Fresh Water Writing

I must admit that I am slightly ambivalent about this pick, though I like it enough to mention it here. This very simple, Canadian html site is basically an application to be included on this tightly-controlled web publishing platform. While not taking advantage of some of the benefits that Web 2.0 has to offer, I like Fresh Water Writing because it’s old school. There is something to be said for having your work vetted, edited, and published on the web by an impartial third party.

4. The Poetry Foundation

It’s hard to be a poet on the web these days without quickly being introduced to this fantastic site. They offer so much content it’s difficult for me to summarize here. Suffice to say that if you need a one-stop source for poetry text, media, and news, you’ll find no better place on the web than this mainstream compendium.

5. Read Write Poem

This collaborative blog/poetry resource is managed by my new friend Deb Scott. This is a great project that’s fairly simple to get involved in: every Friday at GMT-5 a new poetry prompt is issued, and readers respond to the prompt a week later with original poems which are discussed on the site. It’s a great way to join a community which has a vested interest in helping you with your writing process.

That’s all for now! This Friday look for my review of the Touch Poet app for the iPhone or iPod Touch.

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Google Poetry Robot

My apologies for the very late post: this week has been particularly difficult on my schedule.

Today’s offering is a very cool little search tool and writing aid: the Google Poetry Robot. First out in 2006 but consistently updated, this tool from Geoff Peters uses Google searches to suggest words for poems. You simply type in the line you’re stuck on, and the robot suggests a new word. Geoff offers a published example on the site:

Example poem “Here in Canada”:
Mooing is more than just Breathing.
Clucking is sooo out of date.
Laughing is Healthy and crying is ignored but why?
I believe breathing is illegal here in Canada.
Writing the right words is always welcomed graciously
but those who believe that human wisdom
can do away with nationalism and religious beliefs
are truly inspiring but severely deranged.

-Geoff Peters and the Google Poetry Robot, 2006
Published in the May 2006 issue of High
Altitude Poetry.

He even offers an example in French as a demonstration that the bot works in other languages.

Now, I’ve used this a few times to varying effect. I highly recommend it if you’re completely stuck and need suggestions on filling in just one or two words in your poem. For writing a whole poem, I’m not so sure.

By typing in “In Xanadu” I can get the first line of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan through a series of clicks, but not too far beyond that. In entering lines of my own invention, I found that after the six or seventh click my choice of words became very limited and/or the same two or three choices kept coming up.

Though this may not be a perfect tool for writing a complete poem, give Google Poetry Robot a try for those times when you just can’t find that word that’s on the tip of your pen. I guarantee it’s a lot faster than frantically flipping through the dictionary.

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A New Wednesday Tradition

There are so many places out there to read or post poetry. A broad spectrum of web tools has been employed to help disseminate all the poetry out there, putting it into manageable chunks for us to happily digest. As the beginning of what I hope will be a long-standing tradition, I’d like to use the Wednesday post here at Paradise Tossed to list five poetry web sources that I think are worth checking out.

1. Poetry Wikia

This poetry wiki, which uses wikia.com as it’s particular base of operations, is the best poetry wiki that I’ve found. As a wiki should be, it’s very user-oriented and makes a concerted effort to foster a community. They’re doing well so far, with 228 poems to date, and a quick look around the site shows that the folks in charge know what they’re doing technologically speaking. Also, my favorite part is that some of the poems include links to specific quirky Wikipedia articles that define some of the poets’ words. It’s a very meta-wiki-experience.

2. Open Micro

Open Micro, a tumblelog for micropoetry, gets its submissions mostly from Twitter users, but the site itself is part of Tumblr. They’re really breaking into this whole idea of reading and discussing micropoetry outside of Twitter. It’s also nice to have a source that sifts through the wide array of micropoems that are out there.

3. World Class Poetry Blog

Not only does this blog have a completely understated and modest title, it’s also a nice comprehensive poetry source. There are plenty of poetry posts, but also lots of discussion about the internet and the direction in which poetry is moving. They just started accepting guest bloggers, so you may want to see if you’ve got two cents to put in!

4. The Library of Congress

Now, I’m sure that when most of you think of poetry, the federal government is not the first thing to come to mind. That’s why I’ve included the Library of Congress’s site on the list. This site offers information about the Poet Laureate, resources for teachers and students, information about archived poems, and a whole bunch of poetry news that’s hard to find anywhere else.

5. Poetry Notebook

I try to stay away from plugging more personal blogs, but Dirk Johnson’s site is exceptional. His poetry is both deep and accessible, his knowledge of poetic history is very informative, and he links to a bunch of other good sites. This site is a great starting point if you’re thinking about starting your own blog-as-personal-poetry-journal.

All of these sites, along with future recommendations, will be added to the “Sites You Should Visit” list for reference. Please comment with suggestions for sites you think deserve a shout-out.

I leave you today with yet another great poetry comic. I told you two posts ago that Randall Munroe constantly pushes the envelop, and he certainly didn’t disappoint in today’s comic:

Title-text: It's even harder if you're an asshole who pronounces  brackets.

Title-text: It's even harder if you're an asshole who pronounces brackets.

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Where Has All the Hypertext Gone?

For starters, some poetry news from over the weekend:

Apparently, former British Prime Minister Sir John Major wrote secret poetry, though why he was keeping it a secret we’ll never know.

In a truly nasty coincidence, Ryan North of the fantastic Dinosaur Comics, posted this comic after I had already finished my post on webcomics and poetry. Now, on to today’s topic!

Long ago, when the internets began, before they were even a glint in Al Gore’s and/or Ted Stevens’ eye, there was a phenomenon known as Hypertext Poetry. Initially gaining a bit of traction in the poetic community, hypertext poems combined traditional techniques with some very basic hyperlinks, allowing poems to weave in and out of several webpages. Sites like this one and this one made honest efforts to provide collections of these poems to internet readers.

In the early nineties the movement exploded, with scholars at Brown University, including noted author Robert Coover, beginning to take notice and participate. As you can see on their site, they even began to expand into other forms of virtual poetry.

So what happened? Why do some of the links to poems in the sites above not even work anymore? Why isn’t hypertext a class taught in Lit programs at colleges across the country? Why doesn’t every poem posted on a blog today have dozens of links in it?

The answer is complicated. First of all, as you may notice, hypertext can be a little cumbersome to read. After the initial flair of a new technology wears off, it won’t stay popular unless it’s accessible. Take a read through some of the poems above if you can; it’s a safe bet most of you will find the reading a bit cumbersome, maybe even a little frustrating. Even one of my favorites, a compilation piece entitled “The Astrophysicist’s Tango Partner Speaks,” gets to be too much after a while.

Even more than that, the form really only got its sea-legs between ’95 and ’99, just as online video was becoming truly feasible. This made oral poetry and performance poetry easily communicable, and purely visual online poetry started to seem passe.

The final death knell of hypertext was probably Web 2.0. Wikis, blogs, and other user-driven-content sites allowed virtually anyone to self-publish. The need for controlled hypertext projects passed away with the rise of social networking. Something to think about the next time you post your latest as a “note” on Facebook.

Regardless of whether or not it’s still widely in use, the hypertext poetry movement is one that you should definitely check out if you haven’t already. Who knows? You may even decide to bring it back!

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Poems as Comics, Comics as Poems

Poets are often stereotyped as taking themselves far too seriously; internet folk are often stereotyped as completely incapable of seriousness. Let’s put this to rest: neither of these statements is true. Poets know how to laugh at themselves, and the internet has plenty of gravitas. Not only that, but they manage to meet in the middle in today’s topic: webcomics.

There are plenty of webcomics that take up poetry as a theme. One of my favorites was a comic called “Poetry Artist” that has fallen by the wayside in recent years. Its archives are still well worth pursuing, though, and here’s a classic example:

Possibly a Shakespeare reference?

Possibly a Shakespeare reference?

Anders Ekman and David Noonan had a really great sense of how to poke fun at poets while still hinting that they secretly love words as much as their title character does.

A fascinating combination of comics and poetry was compiled by the good folks at the Poetry Foundation, who did a series of comic artists’ renderings of new and old poems. The artists really took some time to think closely about how the words could be transferred to images in a compelling way.

Lastly, one of the most popular webcomics of the moment is the oft-referenced xkcd. Its creator, Randall Munroe, is a huge fan of wordplay, and this comic really highlights that love:

But Randall never just does things halfway. Not long after this comic was posted, he created the fantastic LimerickDB.com, which uses the database format of sites like bash.org to allow users to post and rank their own limericks. It’s simply fantastic!

There was an intriguing webcomic
Whose purpose was quite telephonic
It’s encouraged new poems
As the wide web it roams
While enjoying a nice gin and tonic

Coming next week on Paradise Tossed:
– A blast from the past: What happened to hypertext poems?
– The top five poetry blogs and why you should read them
– Innovative resources for writing formal poetry

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Introduction and Example

There’s a lot of poetry on the internet. So much, in fact, that people are finally beginning to sit up and take notice. But the truly interesting thing is beyond that a bit: poetry doesn’t sit idly by as a new medium comes into its own. Like a scrappy bacterium, poetry evolves, adapts, and takes on a new shape to fit its new environment. All over the internet, new forms of poetry are taking shape, and old ones are finding new homes.

Take one of the oldest forms of poetry as an example: the haiku. These beauties of brevity have been around for quite a while, and I’m sure many of you remember working out the 5-7-5 syllable structure in grammar school. But lately these tiny verses have found an internet niche. The popular social networking site Twitter, which has a 140-character limit for all posts, abounds with posts as haiku. If you search Twitter for “#haiku” you’ll be deluged with folks who find that this particularly poetic art-form has them all… well… atwitter. There are even Twitter accounts, like @haiQ, that only post in haiku form.

Twitter users took
A most ancient form of verse
And crafted it anew

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