Bizarre Pizarnik flick and other poetic diversions

From time to time, I motivate myself to do a translation of a Spanish-language video poem for Moving Poems. This morning’s effort was for an adaptation of a couple of pieces by Alejandra Pizarnik done in the style of a classic black-and-white horror film. Check it out.


My collaborator Patricia F. Anderson and I continue to work at our chain poem derived from news stories. I think it’s near completion.


The new Read Write Poem social network is really taking off, with 267 members, 6000-10,000 page views a day, and lively conversations proliferating in the groups and forums. I administer groups for Micropoetry, Video Poetry, and Politics and poetry, which is probably about all I can handle right now. Fortunately, lots of other people have been stepping forward, and the site now has 44 groups to choose from — everything from American Expatriates to New Formalism to LOLcat Poetry.

I’ve been a little surprised to find myself so active there; up until now, I’ve actively avoided involvement in discussions about writing and literature, which so easily become contentious. But so far, at least, the dominant tone at Read Write Poem has been enthusiasm rather than snark. And in another test of the expanded site’s success, the responses to the first weekly poetry prompt since the changeover have included a number of pretty impressive poems. I may never become a regular writer to prompts myself, but it’s great to see so many talented writers coming together across boundaries of distance, background, level of expertise, and stylistic approach. If you were thinking of applying for an MFA program somewhere, I’d advise you to save your money and join Read Write Poem instead.

“Twitter for poets”: poetry and conversation in Identica

Identica LogoOver at Identica — the open-source, feature-rich microblogging service which I greatly prefer to the faddish Twitter — I’m collaborating on a chain poem with librarian-blogger Patricia Anderson. It’s probably still quite a few days from completion, but those with an interest in the creative process and/or in social media and micromessaging technology might be interested in following the poem’s slow progress.

Twitter users will notice right away that they’re not in Kansas anymore. Up until a few weeks ago, each reply to another Identica user had a Twitter-like “in reply to” link at the bottom, and you could only follow conversations by clicking backward from one such link to another. But now, as the official description of the latest version of the underlying Laconica software puts it:

Related notices are organized into conversations, with each reply a branch in a tree. Conversations have pages and are linked to from each notice in the conversation.

In the current styling, each nested level is a slightly darker shade of gray, so that a back-and-forth between two people resembles an inverted staircase descending into darkness. A perfect medium for poetry!

Actually, I had wanted to have staggered verses, which would entail replying each time to the other person’s earliest post in the conversation, but Patricia wanted to let the conversation proceed naturally and keep nesting deeper with each reply instead. The poem can end, she suggested, at the point where replies no longer nest. We’re not sure exactly when that will be, but we should have at least another week at our current rate of one or two posts per day. I proposed the topic: “in the news,” with regular images drawn from current, international news stories. You can see our conversation about the poetic conversation — the meta-poem — here.

This is, as far as I know, the first collaborative poem in Identica written to take advantage of the conversations feature, though earlier collaborations, such as this one between Carolee and Blythe, have been threaded retroactively. I imagine that when we’re done, we’ll repost the entire conversation at Open Micro, so I’m not too worried about keeping the thread free of non-poetry replies. In fact, I thought it was pretty cool when an Identica user from Ukraine — Kobzahrai, whom I got to know initially as a fellow member of the blues group — responded appreciatively to my opening sally about the strange mayor of Kiev.

Identica has a small but active poetry community, lured there by such features as groups and favorite notices. Belonging to groups such as poetry, writers, haiku, or lyrics can greatly help reduce the noise-to-signal ratio in your feed, because you don’t need to subscribe to someone who writes 90 percent of the time about Ubuntu, for example, just to see their occasional haiku. And while Twitter also allows you to save favorite posts by other users, only Identica notifies you when someone favors one of your posts. The six most popular posts of the day appear at the top of the sidebar on the front page of Identica, and a longer compendium of currently popular posts is one click away. And perhaps because we poetry fans are inveterate word-hoarders, we probably “favorite” things more often than other users, giving an impression to casual visitors that Identica is — as someone once told Evan Prodromou, the lead developer — “Twitter for poets.”

Incidentally, if you follow me on Twitter and are wondering why you’re not seeing my half of our collaborative poem there, too, that’s because I’ve elected not to send my “@” replies across the automatic bridge that Identica provides.* Most Twitter folks already struggle to make sense of a morass of atomized messages, and I don’t see any point in subjecting them to additional fragments. Twitter is increasingly about broadcasting anyway; “power users” compete to see who can acquire the most followers, with whom conversations will generally be limited to one-way exercises in “crowd sourcing.” If you want true conversation, group-enabled camaraderie, or poems longer than 140 characters (multi-authored renga? Ballads? Epics?) Identica is the place to be.

*The lead developers of Identica are committed to an open microblogging protocol, which if ever fully adopted would mean that users of competing micromessaging services would be able to subscribe and reply to each other without leaving their own service, just as we now do with competing email services. The people who run Twitter, like AOL and Comcast in days of yore, don’t seem to see the need to give their users that freedom, so Twitter is still essentially a silo.

Open Micro

Yes, I know my photo blog is down. Shutterchance, the host, sent around an email saying they had experienced massive server failure, and were working hard to try and reconstruct files. It doesn’t sound too encouraging. And I know that Via Negativa was out of commission for close to a day. My blog host and patron, Matt, suggested that’s because I had over 30 active plugins, and the server couldn’t take it. So I’ve been cutting plugins right and left and holding my breath. No more ShareThis, no more silly word count in the footer, no more Table of Contents. (Did anyone ever actually use ShareThis? If so, for what?)

There for a few minutes yesterday morning, even The Morning Porch was down for maintenance, which meant that all three of my personal blogs were MIA at the same time. Scary. What to do?

Well, create a new site, of course. Check out the new group blog for micropoetry, Open Micro.

Most people use microblog services like Twitter and its open-source counterpart Identica for updates on their daily activities, and that’s fine. Some people use them for hilarious bon mots — I try to follow as many of those as possible. At qarrtsiluni, we use Twitter and Identica to help disseminate news about the magazine and our contributors. There are even some novelists taking advantage of the medium, trickling out new work one or two sentences at a time — enough of them that a new word has been coined for the genre, twitterature. But some of us simply enjoy the challenge of trying to create complete poems or prose-poems within the strict confines of a single microblog post of 140 characters, spaces included.

There are actually quite a few haiku writers on Twitter, though of course not all of them take the art too seriously. But it was actually the much less populous Identica whose recent addition of groups sparked the creation of Open Micro. Some of us on Twitter and Identica had long been favoriting other people’s most lyrical notices and hoarding them in our Favorites pages (mine are here), but with the ability to create a Poetry group page came a new idea: wouldn’t it be cool if we could somehow combine all our favorites pages into one?

That’s essentially what Open Micro will do. We’re trying to be careful to get permission for everything we post, though this isn’t as onerous as it sounds, since any micropoem by a fellow contributor is fair game. The group will probably add a few more members, but what we really need now are readers. Stop on over! And be sure to bookmark it, so that the next time Via Negativa vanishes into the ether, you’ll still have something to read.