"If a poem is so very much more than a sum of its separate parts, then the presentation of a group of poems by different authors offers an editor the opportunity to raise that sum by geometric proportions."


Round table participants:

Dennis Gaughan
Poetry Cafe

Marek Lugowski
Agnieszka's Dowry
A Small Garlic Press

David Hunter Sutherland,
Recursive Angel

Mike Neff


Perihelion's first round table was developed to stimulate an ongoing discussion about internet poetry publishing and its relationship with print media.

Do use our bbs to participate and help provide the focus for future discussions.

Life on the Frontier - Web Published Poetry

   An email assisted round table discussion
   hosted by Jennifer Ley

Ezines. Are they the media of choice for publishing poetry in the over touted new millennium? Or Ms. Kitty's Bawdyhouse of Words and Manners, way station for the intellectually challenged cyber traveller?

Much has been written about the suitability of the internet as a means to publish poetry. But like any means of communication, the internet is merely an alembic - it provides opportunity - but it is individuals who mold and shape that opportunity, and give it form.

Encouraged by the accessibility of this new media, countless individuals have stepped forward, creating websites to showcase writing. The structures they have chosen to do so and the editorial choices they have made have forged the online poetry community, in all its many permutations both good and ill, that we know today.

But the question remains: What have we forged - and where is it taking us?

Probably the most striking thing about the internet is its reach. Freed from the economic constraints of paper publishing and the horrors of small press distribution, internet poetry sites can and do reach thousands of viewers per day, while many respected literary journals can only claim a distribution of 5,000 readers per issue. And though most poets and editors on the net are still committed to the smell of ink and the feel of fiber between their fingers, a recent sojourn to a major bookstore, where the poetry journals were cramped willy nilly into a group of bookcases in a corner of the newsstand/cafe area, didn't exactly inspire this writer to run home and type up more submission letters. Writers want to be read. Editors want their writers to find an appreciative audience.

I come to the internet from the world of small press magazine publishing. For five years I published a children's environmental magazine, Crayon Power, which found national distribution and won much critical acclaim. But as the years progressed, more and more of my time was spent fundraising and dealing with distributors (Crayon Power was a not-for-profit publication and accepted no advertising) rather than on more important issues of content.

Finding the net was a revelation. Putting my environmental writing to the side for a time, I decided to take advantage of the benefits of electronic publishing to promote writing even less likely to generate a profit - poetry.

Utilizing the unique quality of hypertext links, I set out to forge a poetry site that would take the visitor on a thematic journey. If a poem is so very much more than a sum of its separate parts, then the presentation of a group of poems by different authors offers an editor the opportunity to raise that sum by geometric proportions. And, as an active participant on the New York City Poetry circuit for several years, I had witnessed the way many 'open mike' readings turned into imagistic sorties, as poet after poet, inspired by the words of the writers who preceded him/her at the mike, used their own poetry to add to an afternoon's collective aural palette. A website allowed me to codify this phenomena. For less than the cost of printing one issue of Crayon Power, I was able to buy a relatively sophisticated computer, monitor and flatbed scanner. Armed with a shareware program for html and a free web server - which immediately solved my distribution problems - I set out to create The Astrophysicist's Tango Partner Speaks.

Just under two years and over 60,000 hits later, Astro continues to take pride in showcasing poets of unique vision - culled from the world of both print and web - from well known literary names like Robert Carnevale and Kenneth Tindall, to members of the downtown New York poetry community like Martha Cinader, Chocolate Waters, Bruce Weber and Thad Rutkowski, to web denizens Michael McNeilley, Doug Tanoury and C.K. Tower, including previously unpublished poets such as the very talented James Madison Walker. And far from sponsoring a place where writers hide behind the anonymity of their computers, Astro sponsored a live reading last summer in New York City. 'Flesh Time' earned a critic's pick in Time Out and brought over 30 poets from as far away as Germany for a five hour marathon reading at a local poetry venue in Greenwich Village. A specially prepared print anthology commemorated the event.

In creating Perihelion for Web Del Sol, I've tried to take the idea of mission to the poetry community a few steps further by adding pertinent, focused information, theory and debate to the mix. This extends the approach Mike Neff has used so effectively into new territory.

Before I started using the internet to publish poetry, my poetry community consisted mainly of other writers in the New York/New Jersey area. Today, that community embraces the globe. It includes four editors whose websites serve as distinctive templates for the way most poetry is now showcased on the net: Dennis Gaughan - Poetry Cafe - a site of huge breadth and unique features, like Poetry Reload, which allows the viewer to surf a random presentation of poems on the site; Marek Lugowski - Agnieszka's Dowry - where intuitive links hidden in imagemaps make reading poetry much like searching out memorabilia in a favorite great-aunt's attic; David Hunter Sutherland - Recursive Angel - classic and elegant, RA uses esoteric artwork to create a magazine format site; Michael Neff - Web Del Sol - a hybrid form which melds web versions of independent print and web publications with bbs forums and running commentary about activities within the literary community.

I set out to find how they would answer my earlier questions - what have we forged and where is it taking us? To do that, I assembled the four editors into a round table and submitted a series of questions. I'm sure you'll find their answers intriguing; more importantly, I hope you'll use the bbs on this site to answer the questions posed in this article, comment, and pose questions of your own.

As writers, as editors, our use of the internet is still very much in its infancy. If there's figurative gold in them thar hills, the pan is very much in our own hands.

The Questions:

1. Why did you start a website? Describe how your website functions - and how you use the technology to enhance the reader's experience. Why did you make these choices?

Dennis: Poetry Cafe has a simple charter: publish contemporary poetry, promote literary community & share resources. None of that must be tied to a particular medium, but a website offers unique strengths in all three areas. The internet offers unparalleled immediacy, reach, and depth to support our charter.

Scribes have used technology, starting with a stick in the sand, for millennia, recording what the moving finger wrote during oral performance. Transcription aided travelers, printing encouraged literacy, microphones extended the voice, a hologram can preserve personalization. These and other technologies are part of stagecraft, not standardization. In turn, their varying combinations provide unique context for what, at the beginning and at the end, is an assemblage of words constrained by the poet to a particular range of interlocking meanings.

We make these new choices to meet entirely new challenges. There was a time in Europe when the distribution of manuscripts expanded both print and literacy expanded at the very same time that population contracted. The printed page accomplished what medicine could not when confronted by plague and war: it enhanced the prospects of the survivors, arming them with knowledge and cultural continuity. Today, population growth brings staggering social pathologies and disease as the proportion of educated people faces steep decline. There is no better reason I can think of to apply technology to promote and preserve our poetic heritage.

Marek: Our webness was LeeAnn Heringer's idea, back in August 1995. Kim Hodges and I -- the freshly baked A Small Garlic Press -- were a paper entity at its birth, having just shown our first chapbook, my _Utah Poems_ at Chicago's Underground Press Conference at DePaul University. We had a vague idea that a web site would follow, but neither one of us was htmling when LeeAnn said she liked our poetry and wanted to play.

LeeAnn was already ahead of most literature people, being a fulltime software developer for various media-heavy things. Her zeal spread infectiously, and within a day the three of us were designing and picking details etc. And in the subtle span of a couple months the web site became one of the foci of our daily net.existence, even though it continues to be a bunch of static pages. :) :) On the other hand, all manner of browsers should be able to browse the gist of our site.

Agnieszka's Dowry, the now on-line and in-print serial, followed in its nascent 3-room form on 8 March 1996, and even though we are, too, a paper press having published 18 chapbooks to date with one more in production, the website and the on-lineness of Agnieszka's Dowry (now 24 rooms, in its 9th issue), and given our electronic Broadsides section -- and the somewhat editorializing by choices made Page of Links -- is a persisting and growing identity. It is meant to allow strangers to find us from "out there", using on-line methods or glimpsing website references or Usenet newsgroup references.

Our in-print activities and our on-line installations act as dynamically balancing parts of a sailboat in motion: I'd say the on-line part is the above waterline part, full of sail and spinnaker :), and the paper chapbook publishing is the boat's stabilizing, grounded, crew's life expectancy-shortening part:).

Yet... whenever an Agnieszka's Dowry issue comes out in a paper chapbook edition, we experience a sense of relief, then a rush, a tangible sense of mystical pleasure and achievement, of ancient connection with anyone who ever made a book or even scrawled an obscenity on a stone wall in Peru. :) And we know that readers (and authors!) treasure this and forgive us the 6-month or so lag that the tiny gaggle of us requires to pull this off. We print every electronic acceptance, so we accept stingily. The print magic and the attendant suffering aside, we put that sense of persistence right into our on-lineness: Unlike the archiving or outright stuff-chucking sites, we regard our on-line installations as permanent, and we keep all of what has been put up equally accessible, and perhaps more accessible for the earlier stuff, since we add to the bottom of our Agnieszka's Dowry main web page? Not sure if this adding at the bottom will last; of the ASGPers I seem to be the only one who speaks for its honoring the ancient submitters... :)

But the short answer of course to your question, Jennifer, is, we do our web site to have fun and to bring fun to our authors and readers.

David: Recursive Angel originally existed exclusively in Hardcopy/Hardbound format back in 1991. We solicited our contributors from around the country and published bi-annually. The problems we encountered with early production was the staggering costs of Hardbound full color printing. Additionally, our distribution/exposure to other writers and readers was limited by the number of copies we could afford to produce.

The Internet allowed RA to continue publishing in a cost effective manner and provide as much exposure, if not more, than traditional hardcopy. Our goal is to provide both, annual hardcopy issues and quarterly electronic editions.

In essence, the technology provides RA accessibility to a larger and ever growing readership.

Mike: WDS is one enormous collaborative project designed to bring the best in contemporary literature to a new and larger audience, and in doing so, to enlighten them, disturb them, push them to the edge of tears, to employ whatever means necessary to force them to realize that a viable alternative to the Comedy Channel and drugstore pulp exists ...

One major goal of WDS is to serve as a bridge between the established literary world--classic academia, Manhattan, and the West Coast--and the online world. In keeping with this goal, WDS establishes partnerships with established literary magazines and both small and large publishing houses to bring individual works, chapbook collections, and magazine websites to the online reader. WDS also cultivates its own cache of writers and poets, and now nascent publications such as 5_Trope, Perihelion, and In Posse.

Technology is utilized to make the experience for the reader both enjoyable and as hassle-free as possible. Frames on the entry page enable the reader to access every major part of the website, and to open new windows onto individual online publications such as Agni and North American Review--incidentally, the oldest magazine in America having published the likes of Conrad and James.

2. What does the internet offer you - as an editor - that print does not? Who among you is still producing print publications, and why?

Dennis: We now have a different sort of quill pen in our grasp. Where before a reader could actually hold both the end and the means in her hands, now the reader becomes more properly part of the audience. The presentation becomes less important than the content. The technology - the stagecraft - is aside and within the work, working on behalf of the author and the audience. At best, this is a silent and transparent partner, enabling entirely new forms of experience.

Like many sites, Poetry Cafe assists readers with simple analogs to the print world: organization, design, navigation, and control. But it also applies leverage to technologies that offer capabilities unheard of in a print publication, such as information typology, database management, conditional processing, and kinetic visualization. This is no attempt to supersede print media and it is more than an extension of historic concepts - it is, in fact, something entirely new.

Print media can and must survive as a necessary and vital component of the total poetry experience. And Poetry Cafe loves books - in fact, we give them away for free just to increase their appreciation and publicize their worth - (www.poetrycafe.com/giveaway/). Even if after a transition, all of earth's population could have a computer and visit Poetry Cafe, I would still encourage everyone to read books and compile a personal library. In fact, we have plans to publish them ourselves.

Marek: I don't even think of internet editorially, except to say that I like the mix of poets I tap into. The pragmatics of the internet for a poetry press far outweigh any literary/editorial considerations, which are not all that different -- credibility, distribution, attracting talent, producing good product, having fun.

Instead, let us sing the praises of the convenience of propagating (schlepping) submissions, projects, art, and correspondence. In short, internet is a trucking service, a courier service and a distributed workgroup. So much so that 2 researchers at Xerox Research found us out and had a teleconference with the lot of us about various aspects of running a press that webs and prints. That is what we are to them: a novel model of a distributed workgroup, and why not! If we weren't in Chicago and across the Western states and in Vancouver, we would still need the internet as much as we do now: the means of talking to our printer by ftp and email, the private web pages to exchange art and heavy graphics or typeset books.

See above for why we do and will continue to produce books. That answer just didn't want to stay away from the why do you do web stuff answer. :)

David: The internet has provided RA greater International exposure and allowed us to reach, as well as, solicit writers and readers from every part of the globe. Print could not provide us this same exposure without steep costs involved.

As mentioned, RA plans to print a annual "Best Of..." issue when time permits. In this manner, we can reach both the more traditional hardcopy readers and still provide the "surfer" a way to read our issues at no cost.

Mike: The Net offers all those editors and writers associated with WDS a chance to acquire a new audience--and this is happening. The initial fear on the part of hardcopy editors was that the Net would hurt their readership if they went online. Happily, just the opposite is the case! Each publication at WDS with a subscription form online is building their subscription base. Ergo, the online publication augments the offline, and vice-versa, for the offline are now beginning to run ads to promote the online sites.

3. What impact do you think the internet is having on the world of poetry - pro and con?

Dennis: Some internet pros:

--- hospitality to new writers

--- greater opportunities for the integration of real communities

--- genuine enthusiasm for innovation and experimental approaches.

Some internet cons:

--- too many writers are tempted to publish their rough drafts

--- too many editors focus on their own psychological and political agendas, without regard to literary merit

--- too many readers are impatient or functionally illiterate, surfing away from deep content

--- the emerging perception that poetry is somehow in competition with popular music and must give up its innate qualities

--- the mindless carry-over of dubious practices from other media - such as slams and other shallow competitions.

Marek: It's all good. I don't see anything very "con". For every con I see a better good either already available or waiting to happen. For once it is something that puts people voluntarily together and you can turn it off and there is no such thing as too much of it -- it's not eating up the public trust of radio spectrum or something. It's our global consciousness, even if it is the girl 2 floors down from me. I like it.

David: I agree with Marek, it's all good! Of course many more established publications might look down their noses a bit when it comes to poetry on the net, but I think like any new medium, there is a certain "settling" period as things fall into place.

Over time, and as more magazines of notable hardcopy reputation start publishing on the net, I feel we'll begin to see a leveling of the playing field.

As for poetry on the net vs. hardcopy publications, I have noticed a tendency for many writers to take net publishing as a given, and therefore, put little effort in the polishing and fine tuning of their work. Overall though, RA has found that by offering writer compensation and demanding quality based on this, a number of quality writers have been submitting and are continuing to submit.

Mike: It depends on how you define, "the world of poetry." We perhaps have a whole entity here which is actually a loose confederation of parts.

"Con" impact if you postulate that the enormous and heaving sludge of bad poetry online is having a synergistic effect on the sensibilities of online readers and thus convincing them that poetry online as a whole is very bad and should be avoided. Hopefully, however, the majority of these same readers will have enough sense to realize there are select islands of sanity and art to be found, and they will seek these out and spread the word to others.

"Pro" in the sense that many online poets are bringing new and good works to the Net, and thus new readers will partake and be pleased. This cannot help but positively impact "the world of poetry" as a whole.

However, perhaps the encroaching darkness of the former negates the light of the latter?

Any good work of poetry serves to flower the poetry landscape as a whole, but if one defines the world of poetry as including the academic and classic publishing world, I'd say the impact of the Net is minimal, i.e., as a whole it has not really overly impressed or depressed those "offline" individuals whose livelihood and reason for being depends upon poetry. At such time that major editors are trolling the net for prospects, then I will reverse my position. And I'm hoping that I will reverse as soon as possible.

3a. For those of you who can measure these things, who is your audience? What kind of feedback do you get from people who visit your site?

Dennis: Poetry Cafe started up online early in 1996. We have continuously queried our audience for their views and collected demographic data to help us understand them. Direct collection is supplemented by random statistical sampling. The estimates shown here are for the most recent three month period. Note: we do not collect data based on race or ethnic origin. All percentages are rounded off to the nearest percentage point.

--- Location. Visitors come from all continents and over 120 countries. The regions include Africa (6%), Asia (8%), Australia (7%), Europe (28%), North America (42%), and South America (9%).

--- Gender. 59% female and 41% male.

--- Age. Under 18 (10%), 18-35 (35%), 36-50 (27%), 51-65 (19%), 66-80 (8%), 81 Plus (1%).

We get a lot of feedback at Poetry Cafe and it is overwhelmingly constructive. It is an important source of information on audience needs and preferences. There are very few rude or misplaced comments. Even more important, in my view, is the contact between the authors and their audience.

Marek: I offer a slightly different tack taken on your question, Jennifer.

My audience is Helen Walne, Jenniffer Lesh, Hillary Joyce, Anna Evans, Ray Heinrich, Bernadette L. Wagner, Bettina Callaghan, Shawn L. Walker -- all authors whom we've netted in Agnieszka's Dowry -- and the talented poet-gunslingers working as a team at ASGP, and those who will do so in the future or have done so in the past, and those meritorious fellow-gunslingers else.net.out there who might choose to cordially and kindly allow me to work with them (Dave Deifer and crew at UPenn's CrossConnect come to mind).

Everyone is welcome to look and comment, but they are not my audience.

I don't care for the audience of the average (or bad) poet or the person who must read the canon to be edified, to be reassured that he or she is reading certified poetry :) -- and I certainly do not care for the indiscriminate reader, and I am not motivated by the established Review/university press.

On the other hand, I do raid the MFA/young English faculty ranks for authors and we attract submissions from there. We have three books by authors from that niche, Jeffrey Thomson's _Halo Brace_, Alan DeNiro's just out _The Black Hare_, and Doug Thiele's _Like Chinese Milk_. I am a great fan of inviting work and poets we like, and as I am lazy about submitting my own work and licking envelopes or keeping logs of whom have I licked and where have I sent, I don't, and so I rely on the kindness of strangers/editors to pick up my stuff. I hope this leading stance will reduce editor overburdening with submissions everywhere, once it catches on. :) Meanwhile, I am working under a pile of submissions in tandem with katrina grace craig, my co-editor at Agnieszka's Dowry.

Famous poets: If we ever overlap with recognized-name poets, and occasionally we have, that's nice, but, frankly, it is of little interest in itself. I see A Small Garlic Press as an aggressive start-up poetry nonprofit company and we don't have much in common with the status quo.

We are going to find people who taste good and we are going to go for broke hawking them to the starved for the good news stuff -- b/c we believe in our taste and our editorial vision.

How is the reception? Geographically the hits come from all over, from Ghana to Bulgaria -- we are pretty visible in web engines and on Usenet. How is the reaction? We get no reaction, by my standards. :) :)

When we get reaction, it is nearly universal oohs and ahs, except for occasional personal snickers on Usenet; thereby, by congruency, we get entirely universal oohs and ahs.

David: I would say, based on electronic correspondence, that our readers are 75% poets or fiction writers themselves. The remaining percentage are the casual reader or artist interested in seeing what is new in the world of the creative arts.

As for feedback, we have received very very positive review from a number of readers. Additionally, other magazines such as The Boston Review, a well established print journal, has made very positive comment on our efforts. Further, in Poet's & Writers first issue on electronic magazines, RA received very positive comment on the quality of its work and format.

Mike: I usually get responses that range from awe to gratitude, but occasionally the embittered or disturbed have their say, and I retort: LET THE FLAMING BEGIN! I'm being facetious, of course ... The audience? Well, my stats are about the same as Dennis Gaughan's, i.e., majority North America, U.K. second, and then around the globe. Most are coming from .com sites, about 20% from .edu sites, and the balance are mixed.

4. Though most universities are on the internet, and some literary magazines have established web sites, many people in the academic/literary print community still feel that the net is the 'wild west' of poetry publication. What do you have to say about this?

Dennis: There are many talented writers trapped in the academy, so I think it important we not confuse literature with careerism. The academic community, after all, has a big drag on them. No matter their separate virtues, the activities of an individual poet becomes part of a vitae, influencing career progress and peer status. Things like websites are treated as facilities and perks, assets to be protected. Thus, there are rules. The same goes for too many of the small press publications, who see what they do as extending their academic experience and building self-esteem.

The online world must indeed seem like untamed territory in such circumstances. Academics can't figure out how to reward an author for online publication - after all, most of them consider a website the last refuge of the unpublishable. To promote an online literary experience is something like a European praising San Francisco opera in 1870.

But the academic prattle smacks of self-absorbed and false piety. They stand silent on real issues: the rest of us battle literary scams and forge new economic models for literature (unfinished business left over from the print world). Frankly, their empty aesthetic and moral posturing make me sick.

What none of them get: they assume current institutional models will hold and they need only hang on until the online world comes under their dominion. It won't. Distance learning is already upending traditional education and the online sites can easily reach a broader and more motivated audience than any print venue. If they do not change their ways, they will fail.

Even so, I will welcome them as they come aboard. In time, the talented authors currently trapped in Academe and the small press clubs will realize liberation is at hand.

Marek: Usenet as the Wild West for poetry: It is and it isn't. It is rapidly getting both. A colossal bifurcation is taking place, with huge commercial houses and selling interests and a foam of little bubbles of idiosyncrasy. We are one. We are in the Wild West division. But, in 1995 I was not doing html, yet now in 1998 it is part of my chores for my day job, and part of my inventing for both my day job and for my ASGP web stuff. By extension and by analogy, why should not the people you describe hold on to their visions for a reasonable continuity and change them only slowly? Usenet and the World Wide Web are all these things. The E-world: It's huge, it's multi-everything, multi-oblivious, multi-layered, multi-foiled. It's multi-fun.

David: Let's keep in mind that the "Wild West" helped shape many of the current mores in today's society as well as, fashions, music, laws etc..etc.. As mentioned, the creative side of poetry on the Internet is in its infancy, but over time it will take its place at the table of viable creative outlets as more magazines vie for readership and more users come online.

I am proud to be represented as the editor of Recursive Angel, and wouldn't consider us a "Wild West" outfit! (Maybe just a little unshaved at times ;->)

Mike: At such point enough zines or publications establish themselves with a reputation for publishing fine online poetry--and by "establish" in this case I mean blow a horn so loud the classic offline world goes erect and rigid--then and only then will the academics and others grudgingly alter their weltanschauung and collectively say without reservation, "Yes, the Internet is publishing some fine original work."

This conclusion is rapidly approaching, as I see it, especially given the fact that more and more academic and Manhattan literati are rushing to get online visibility. They are viewing the online world as an opportunity to augment and complement the hardcopy, as a place to get attention and find new audience. This is good news.

5. Please list your favorite literary websites, and the reasons that you find them laudable. Please include url's.

Dennis: Poetry Cafe regularly cites the Poetry Treasures to be found on the internet. All of the sites run by other participants in this discussion are on our list. For our purposes here, I prefer to mention some sites that could serve as models for what poetry sites could (and should not) become.

--- Literary Quality. "Recursive Angel" demonstrates web publication can enhance literary quality. Some print critics only review the worst of the web and attempt generalizations without complete evidence. The existence of sites like RA causes a fair share of needed consternation.

--- Experience Matters. "Agnieszka's Dowry" refuses to compromise the actual experience of poetry; they won't cultivate cheap access to a large audience at the expense of their vision. Visitors accept the challenge of context, to stay awhile and directly experience the poetry, doing so in ways not available to a conventional book.

--- Community. "Project Equinox" was an attempt to encourage collaborative publication by poets sharing a common social vision . In other words, they tried to form a community of like-spirited individuals. Their specific agenda is less important than the fact that they pulled it off at all - let's hope more will follow their example. Consider also the "Athens Avenue Poetry Circle" or "rec.arts.poems", a lively newsgroup. These and other venues encourage and support real community.

--- Poetry Is News. "The Mining Company" is a favorite, trying hard to serve as an information locus for the poetry community. With proper support, they could ratchet literary news up to the standards of more commercial sites like that of ABC News.

--- Crass Exploitation. The so-called National Library of Poetry, a scam from the print world, maintains a site of destructive miseducation. The NLP uses a bogus poetry contest as cover for a scheme to fleece the unwary. They cajole suckers into purchasing anthologies, tapes, and seminars of little intrinsic value (at inflated prices). Several online editors have led the expose of their operation, with virtually no support from either the academics or print publishers.

Marek: Uh, I'll plead that I don't get out much, which is true, but even more true is that I don't really have many, because most all violate my idea of accessibility. As contradistinction, not for literary merit, I offer the sites I use at work, which are intelligently designed to rapidly access textual content, such as the java documentation at Sun Microsystems/Javasoft. If sun can do this, why can't on-line editors do it? All the fluff is for the boids if one can't lynx it (use Lynx the fast text-only browser). After all, it is poetry, right?

The urls, as requested. I'm serious -- this is the best poetry-grade design on the net, more or less:

www.sun.com works

Oh, a forward reference to Dennis's kind words about Agnieszka's Dowry, below:

Our English garden rooms and rings are a barrier in a sense, but the site is expedited for navigation in Lynx 2.7.1, and we are always painting large black text on white for the poems. The navigation scheme is regular, also, and the flow of pagination naturally lands the reader's cursor on the Next-Poem link at the end of furious next-page sequences, and so on, in a ring. Pop one level up and move one over, and again.

Because of this design, you can go through all of AgD much faster in Lynx than through considerably smaller sites that make sense only to graphical browsers, even those loading with images off. So, a barrier in one dimension, and a trap door inviting the dedicated reader, cataloguer, editor, or archivist in another.

And in the end, we publish the thing colorful ring-structured English gardens as a conventional book just the same so you can take it to bed. :)

David: I will not hesitate to mention Dennis Gaughan's Poetry Cafe as excelling in quality and content. He appears to be singlehandedly establishing the format for many future magazine's look and feel and quality. The address is www.poetrycafe.com.

I have also always been very impressed with the quality and dedication of the following publication; Poetry Magazine, Web Del Sol and The Cortland Review. Overall, there are many others, but these stand out as clearest in quality and commitment in my mind.

Mike: Apart from Web Del Sol and affiliates, I'd say Alsop Review, Mudlark, Literal Latte, Impossible Object, Jacket, Poetry Cafe, Recursive Angel, Barcelona Review, AltX, and a few others.

All of the publications can be found at At Sol Links.

I'll pass on java.sun.com, thank you.

I find them laudable because they insist on quality!

6. What is the internet poetry community lacking? What plans do you have in the future to address any of these needs?

Dennis: The poetry community in general lacks some necessary things whether we speak of print or online publication. It boils down to core appreciation for poetry and finding ways to make publication a viable economic enterprise.

For example, shoddy educational practices have left us with a substantial portion of the public that doesn't know how to be an audience. Falling standards for literacy, the cultivation of tabloid culture, and public duplicity leaves us in the position of having to provide remedial education every time we attempt to publish poetry with any depth or opportunity. The establishment is no help on this since it is the source of the problem. Poetry Cafe has already begun to cooperate with organizations set up for distance learning and will intensify its efforts in the months to come.

There have been some valiant attempts at online broadcasts. They bypass more traditional venues, harnessing the power and reach of the internet with audio and video exposure to a potentially huge audience. We are encouraged by the results, but some of the shows too often resemble motel lounge acts with aimless drum solos. The situation worsens when we recognize the lack of professional production and marketing. Poetry Cafe hopes to build on these initial efforts and develop new shows that more closely integrate poetry, education, sales, and distribution.

Marek: The community is lacking compatible means of communicating traffic. The Java Mail API when it takes hold across the internet will liberate us from vendor-specific mail. I am annoyed to no end at receiving Microsoft Word documents, as attachments, translated into a Turkish dialect of Bulgarian.

We, as a community, also might wish to get into cd-rom/recordable cd-rom etc. technologies, as one more bridge between on-line and paper. We, the ASGP folk, are planning on giving away our site, yes, all of it, on CD-ROM, yes, for free, or rather, with the $5 or so that will buy a chapbook on CD-ROM. Or all of the chapbooks we currently have. Dunno yet how this will work. The idea is to make stuff happen, make stuff available, read good stuff, write good stuff, and remain a publicly supported nonprofit corporation, precisely to be able to do all this. I would hope there would be more ASGPs out there. This is the lust for the Wild West speaking.

David: I, and I believe others have felt, that a need to unify some of our efforts in joint publications and/or contests have been missing. In this respect, RA has participated with Web Del Sol, Poetry Cafe and Anthem in the first Internet Literary Arts Poetry Contest.

I hope we will continue to sponsor more contests of this nature in the future.

Mike: The Internet poetry community as a whole lacks credibility with the offline establishment community. This truth may hackle-raise, but there it is. My plan to address this is to assist in the creation of an online poetry site, named Perihelion, which will publish only the finest poetry. By adding another website with high literary standards to the net, Perihelion can help bridge this perceptual gap.

Take into account, however, that a grey zone exists now between the two communities, due to the academic rush to get online. Definitions will have to be reevaluated, and very soon.

7. Additional Comments:

Dennis: Let me start with an obligatory, but heartfelt thank you to Jennifer Ley for organizing this discussion. It is one of the things we very much need on the internet.

And let me temper some of my remarks with a few caveats. I don't care to leave the impression that all academics and print mavens have thoughtlessly dismissed the internet as a viable venue for poetry. Some stalwart souls do break the mold, like Charlie Hughes of Wind Magazine, and Tabatha at Zuzu's Petals. Unfortunately, it is clear that many others have crude assumptions or remain blissfully unaware.

In the end, I am very encouraged by the continuing growth of internet awareness that results in new authors who think of the Internet as the first choice for publication. Print media are considered less as a source of credibility and more as a repository for permanence and tactile experience. That means a true synthesis may be at hand, one without preconditions, but filled with enormous possibilities.

Marek: Not sure I wanna thank Jennifer for anything here just yet. Let's see what comes out of this first! Such a double-edged deal!

On the other hand, she sure plays some mean paint ball (c.f. AgD poem in Issue 8 and art in Issue 9)...

David: Jennifer, I'd like to thank you for your questions and considering us/RA for this type of open discussion. More discussions of this nature will only improve the perception others have about Internet publishing and the creative arts overall.

Mike: We are all on the verge of exciting new times, and I'm proud to be a part of it. Let's have a party! And someone tell Dennis to eat his pancakes!


Editor's note: You made it this far? Congratulations. Maybe Mike will buy YOU pancakes. :) Do use the bbs on this site to participate in what we all hope will become an on-going discussion about the future of publishing poetry on the internet.

And, if you would like to suggest a future round table discussion topic please contact me at: Perihelion@webdelsol.com