Thursday, September 02, 2021

20 years

I realized when I was writing Wednesday's post about instagram poets that it was exactly 20 years ago this summer  I published my very first poem on this crazy thing called the internets. It was actually two poems, though I'd have to dig to remember which ones since the journal, Poetry Midwest,  is long out of commission. Somewhere I have a binder where I printed all those early web published poems out to slip them into plastic sleeves and marvel at my genius. (I had a lot more free time in 2001). 

It was not technically my first published poem, having fallen into a couple vanity-ish anthologies and college lit mags previously, at least one subscriber's issue and one "legit" acceptance (Moon Journal, who published numerous poems in other issues and eventually my first chapbook.) But, of course, the internet was different.  Not only in the quickness of submission--acceptance--publication timelines, but also in reach.  For the first time, I felt like I could reach readers more immediately and directly. And indeed, I did.  It was the first time I would ever get kind notes from readers and other contributors in my inbox.  To be able to share the poem quickly with friends and family. (print journals were nice, but I only had a couple copies and the likelyhood of people in my non-poetry life buying issues/subscriptions not likely or possible.) I was so enamored, I not only started sending all my work to web journals, but decided to start my own.  Our first issue of wicked alice, which included a few poets I solicited and an essay by my sister on art she'd written for one of her classes, was small but lively.The audience grew, reverted to print,  and eventually became what we know as the dgp chapbook series. 

It was not easy, though.  In 2001, so many poets poo-pooed the web and the doors it was opening up to reach readers.  When I tried to solicit poets for WA, the response was often that they didn't want to "waste" their good poems on internet publication.  I found most of my potential authors in discussion boards/ list servs  (later replaced by blogs). People who already spent a lot of time on the computer.  (I also just realized that many of the poets who said no are no longer writing or publishing (though I wouldn't know it...maybe their work is only in print journals few subscribe to.) I'm sure some have surrendered wholeheartedly to the beast, especially once budget strings closed up so many print publications completely or forced them to the web. I sometimes laugh hysterically when I see someone who once told me I was unwise for publishing on the web totally publishing madly  on the web. It's the best kind of self-care.  

I'd be the first to say that without the internets, I don't think I'd be a poet.  Or at least the poet I am.   Sometimes even publishing on a platform of millions feels like dropping a dime in the ocean.  Print culture would intensify that. I love me some of my fave print journals, and have been a part of many over the years, by submitting or solicitation, but I usually go for web publication in most circumstances when sending out new work.  It feels more immediate and far reaching. Like someone is actually reading and responding, which is really all writers want to feel. 

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