Wednesday, August 16, 2006

From Boards to Blogs; Need Your Help with a Poem

It seems to me that earlier on the net workshop boards or participatory listservs were the favored method of rubbing shoulders with other poets. I don't know how the boards are doing now; there are likely many poets entering the porthole of Net poetry through their auspices. Still, I think I've witnessed a migration of poets from boards to blogs. I am one who came late to the idea, but here I am. To where the next migration will be, I don't know; the direction I'd prefer is that quality e-zines became a coveted credit not only on the Internet but in the dead tree world as well.

I got a head's up on this today. I had called Ygdrasil an "e-zine" in a letter to its editor, Klaus Gerken, and he corrected me, calling it a "journal." That distinction is important for him because he feels "e-zine" is too dismissive a moniker for good electronic journals. His attitude is admirable.

Even more than self-respect we need critics. Until we have a healthy amount of astute literary criticism on and about the Net, we will not have the kind of baptism needed to validate our worth to the print world. Rob Mackenzie and Ron Silliman are two bloggers who are also good critics of poetry, but neither is attached directly to a journal to my knowledge.

In between considerable househusband duties, I finished my preliminary organization of the majority of all poems I think worth preserving. Sorting out all the different versions over the years was tedious, but my goal is to have only one version of each poem when I'm done, while having deleted all poems I don't think worth preserving.

Here's a poem with alternate endings. I need your advice on which one to leave in the poem. You don't have to be a writer to give me your opinion!

At the Lincoln Memorial

"If I could save the Union by freeing the slaves, I would;
If I could save the Union by not freeing the slaves, I would.”

Up three tiers of steps--
your mammoth shoe at eye level.
Gargantuan hands rest easy now.
Folds of robes flow from your throne
in static waterfall, a Greek convention
in American marble.

Your face looks younger
than the face from books--
the brochure explains
the sculptor used your death mask.

Your eyes, so often scored by laughter
now stare grimly across the reflecting pool
at that less human monument
of Washington, your father:
He the machine, you the Christ
embalmed in stone under cool portico,
resurrected in cold recall.

First ending:

Ah, Honest Abe, tell us a joke
to humanize your face!
The one about Grant
and the whiskey would do.
I envy the sculptor who made you—
How good to carve a homely man
made beautiful by suffering.

Second ending:

Ah, Honest Abe, tell us a joke
to humanize your face!
The one about Grant
and the whiskey would do.
You would likely laugh
at your marmoreal apotheosis;
besides, it seems unfair
when, after black humor,
justice was your strong suit.

(Published in one version in the Adirondack Review and the Susquhenna Quarterly. The archive for Adirondack is not available and the Susquehanna Quarterly I couldn't find in the first 50 references on Google. Could this mean two more depublications?)

How will the LitNet garner any respect when journals don't maintain archives?

I know you'll all weigh in with your wisdom on the poem.

At 0.5 kilorats,



  1. although "resurrected in cold recall" works pretty well as an ending, forced to choose i'd take the first alternative. Lincoln's ugliness is legendary, and yet, yeah, he's THE beautiful president.
    The second ending includes that line of 10 dollar words, and then the ending does this switch in which i find the train of thought difficult to follow. It seems unfair to be carved in stones because justice was his strong point (after, by the way, black humor)? kind of puzzly.


  2. I like both of them...

    But the first ending seem too short and the second ending seems too grim... I sound like Goldilocks. HA

  3. The first ending is stronger, CE.

    I think Gerken has a point with the notion that "e-zine" as being a dismissive term.

    I've noticed in recent years – beginning I believe with the nameless one from the Black Mountain school – that editors of Best American Poetry are including works from online sources.

    Your comments on depublishing have made think more on this idea of publication and history. What is the real emotional or psychological difference between an online source that gives up its archive or refuses to archive its past issue? -- and a small printed journal or magazine that ceases operation… its issues out of print and unavailable? Similar? Maybe. Let me add this to the cauldron – There is a difference between a published poem in a no-name print journal that falls by the wayside and a major print journal that stops publication. The difference, at least in my mind, is recognition.

    In terms of print -- I do have printed copies of magazines that published my poetry. But that’s not always the case. I’ve been published in printed magazines that did not give me a contributor’s copy. Several-- That was because I didn't purchase a copy. Now, some of the magazines don’t exist.

    I have to add, though, that there’s a clear difference in my not having access to a printed copy of a magazine and a poem being removed from the publication. These defunct publications didn’t remove my poem and then print new copies – as in the Cortland Review removing your work from the archive. I just don’t have copies.

    At Blue Fifth Review, once a poem goes into an issue, it won’t be removed. It’s archived. And I plan to keep BFR online – at least in archived form – as long as I’m able – in terms of health or in terms of access to Internet. I may have to shift the archived material to another form. I’m certain that the present Internet structure will morph, but I hope to be able to adapt the material.

    I have mixed feelings on this topic, and I'm glad that you keep stirring the embers here.

    I do believe that online editors have the ability to make online venues a respectable option for writers.

    The day is coming, when printed books will be a vague memory or historical footnote. As in -- remember how the world was before Internet …

    This is long – sorry.

  4. hey there chaff,
    I prefer the first version. It seems more honest to me.

    I like the whole poem very much. I'd like to visit Abe one day myself, but I feel as though I've been there in my mind.

  5. Thanks all, per usual.

    Sam, at least you can wave a copy of a defunct print journal in someone's face--provided you obtained one.

    The Lincoln poem was published twice by two pretty good online journals in the form everyone rejected. I'm still not happy with the first ending--maybe I'll take Sarah's advice and cut the whole last stanza.

    Melic's Archives will live as long as I do. And who knows? If I obtain webmastering skills in my course this fall, I might be able to resurrect it--which would take care of the technological onus that was the major reason for its demise.

  6. The first version is better to me, tigheter, more concise. The second one just isn't as sharp. In my humble opinion.

  7. I set the problem up so it could only have two answers--likely because, in retrospect, I think neither is correct. This is that rare poem that demands something more, when more demand something less. Thanks for the help, all.

  8. Yup, I vote for the first ending as well. Great poem. I've been to the Lincoln Memorial and it is certainly poem worthy.


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