Saturday, August 19, 2006

E-zine dreams

That there Julie's been asking questions again. This time she's picking people's brains to find out what tempts you to submit poetry?

Disclaimer: I don't. Not any more, anyway. So what follows is purely hypothetical.

Number one has to be the website design. It must be:
- easy to access and navigate around
- quick to load up (so no megabyte pdf docs or jpg images)
- pretty, in a sophisticated way

If it passes those tests, we get onto the tough tests:
- good poems that work well both individually and as a group
- good reviews, articles, essays, artwork, etc
- did I mention that they had to be very good?
- as in not reading 3 stinker poems in the space of 3 clicks?
- oh, yeah, defining good - mindblowingly, entertainingly good

So, now I'm itching. Maybe there's a couple of draft poems I could tighten up which would look good in this e-zine. Which brings us to the tiebreaker test:
- simple, easy to understand submission process
- which means an online submission process
- with clear information provided on things like copyright, turnround time, simsubs, payments (heh!), etc
- having a way to check on how the submitted poems are progressing would be a bonus!

So basically, if the e-zine passes tests 1, 2 and 3 I might just decide to inflict my poems on them.

But that's just the basics. Is it enough for an e-zine to offer a space on a website for some poems the editor happens to like? What more could e-zines be doing?

Well, I like the idea of an e-zine that I'd want to visit regularly - say 2 or 3 times a month, just to check up on what's going on. So there would need to be some new content to draw me in each time. That rules out this 2, 3 or 4 issues a year nonsense. Jacket Magazine, for instance, posts accepted content onto the website as soon as it's accepted, and then gathers the accumulated content into "editions" once a quarter. No Tell Motel features a series of poems by a different poet each week, posting a new poem each day; there's also a printed annual anthology involved. Jacket uses a traditional web format, while NTM goes for the flavour-of-the-moment blog apprach. Both get repeat visitors, I'm sure.

Blogs are novel, because blogs have RSS feeds. And you don't need a browser to see what's new on the blog. But why stick at the written word? Why not podcast the latest poems and articles like here or here or here or even here? Why not have video poems via those very nice people at YouTube?

And it doesn't have to be all heading-for-the-future technology. Why not have space for print-on-demand hardcopies of each issue of the e-zine? I mean, if I can publish a book through then better people than me should have no problem with a quarterly magazine - and it needn't cost the buyer much either.

Here's an idea. Visitors to the e-zine website could build their own little chapbook from the selected poems. With a little bit of wizardry behind the scenes the selected poems could be bundled together into a pdf, sent off to a compliant POD printer, printed and shipped. If the costing scheme was done something along the lines of printing cost + $0.20 per poem then it might not be too expensive. And that 20c could go straight into the pocket of the poet who wrote the poem! I thinks this is one of those idea-too-far ideas at the moment (the technology's not there yet, and no POD printer is - as far as I'm aware - offering single book print-runs in such a way) but who knows how the technology might develop in the next 5 years!

Poetry calendars are definitely here, though. I'm willing to strip for art, but is anyone willing to take the photos?

So, there's some thoughts on what I'd like to see in the next generation of e-zines. I wonder if anyone's got the vision to try it ...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Shameless self-promotion

I finally succumbed to temptation and started advertising The RikVerse on this blog. "Why hide it?" I thought. It's not as if I'm ashamed of it or something. I've also added in direct links to the 2 pdf chapbooks which make up a substantial portion of the publication - just for the cheapskates.

Which got me thinking about future projects. Given my recent arterial flow of productivity I wondered if there was a possibility of a new pdf production. Well, there is and there isn't. After reviewing what's on the stocks, it seems like I'm actually working on 6 (six) separate poetry projects, two of which are around 70% done, a third that's pretty much half-way there, the dratted long poem due to finish sometime before 2010 and a couple of others that are just out of the starting blocks.

The two that are sprinting away are currently listed in my head under the name of "Lovers" and "Others". Alongside two of the less developed projects (inventively titled "Politic" and "Olympic") they could eventually end up as part of a new book. I'll have to come up with better names for the project and the book, of course, but it never hurts to dream a little, does it.

Does it?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Knife

A poem to take two birds with the one hand. Rob's been challenging people to write a sonnet in less than 15 minutes, while Eloise suggested in the Best of the Net thread below that I should write a self-harm poem. So here goes nothing ...

The Knife

"She's messed me up, again: my shiny blade
a tarnished map of haemoglobins. Look
at how she spoilt my spine, my bolster glued
with fingerprints! She's crying now, as if
the cuts are my responsibility -
like I should care; she hasn't sharpened me
in days, not since she last kissed me, my scales
and tang held fast between her breasts. I know
she can't love me - I'm just the tool. But still
there must be something there, a hint of care
in choosing me repeatedly to mark
her skin with messages, her runes of loss
and hurt and farewell notes, the secret pains
she takes to wrap me safe in swaddling cloth."

No, it doesn't rhyme, and thus cannot be considered a proper sonnet. But it's got 14 lines of IP, which is enough to claim modern sonnethood.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Guardian's Poetry Workshop

Just a quick note to thank Vicki Feaver and those nice people at Guardian Unlimited for including my poem "Coots" in their latest poetry workshop.

Given that the poem was not workshopped anywhere outside this blog, I'm surprised the review the poem got was so positive. My Inner Critics are currently having a little celebration in the back of my head; I'll let them enjoy themselves for a couple more hours before shackling them back to their desks.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mmmm - parasites!

Harry's quite the linkophile - I'll often pop over to his blog to see what he's ferreted out. Today I struck gold when Harry linked to Carl Zimmer's blog - Carl wrote one of the best books I've ever read about parasites, and his views on the biology of parasitism is proving to be very influential on my conbiology activities. Definitely a link for the sidebar.

Thanks, Harry!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Best of the Net?

Sometimes you find yourself browsing through bits of the online poetry scene you don't often bother with and you stumble across an idea which looks rather good on first glance. Such was my reaction when I heard about Sundress Publication's proposed annual anthology Best of the Net. Excellent, thinks I, someone promoting and celebrating online poetry in a good way.

Then I read the submission guidelines:

Participant Qualifications
- Submissions must come from the editor of the journal

Killed by the first bullet point!

So no place in a publication provocatively entitled "Best of the Net" for people who choose not to publish their poetry via a third party, but prefer to offer it to the reader direct and unpasteurised.

Even with all the new technology at their disposal, people still insist on worshipping the old gods. Surprisingly, it doesn't surprise me anymore. Oh, well ...


Apparently, a poet should be able to write blank verse without breaking a sweat, preferably for pages and pages. This one's freshly minted (and thus, by definition, dog-rough).


It takes a glance to catch him: turn a head
and he'll be gone back through the wall - the one
with counties catalogued by colour. Quick!

He's there. He stares around the room, a man
who's lost his century, bemused by desks
and phones, dividing screens, fluorescent light

that makes his inky fingers glow. He wears
a frown beneath his wig, a blot of mud
still wet around his calf. Why is he here?

His shoulders slope in chalk cascades, his arms
solidify round parchments, briefs and notes
with ribbons wound about them. When I turn

my head, he turns, returns the stare. I smile:
'see us', my eyebrows arch, 'both lost inside
this treasury, too poor to seek escape'

Needs a bit of work, I think. And given the content, it probably needs approval from some committee or other. Oh, well ...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Redraft: Trafalgar Week

Don't blame me for the lack of posts: I've always been crap at keeping a diary. I keep on looking at the blog, and it keeps on staring back at me, an accusing stare within its typeface - you don't write me anymore; you don't like me anymore - yadda yadda, heard it all before. Tough. And the guilt grows within me until I find myself revising a poem not because I want to revise the poem but rather because I don't know what else to bloody post.

This one's a major rewrite:

Trafalgar Week

Dancers on the stage built beside
his plinth: his hair is a weave
of pigeon wings. They watch
the crowd below - billowy flags
tied across burnt shoulders. Today
our stage is glitter, our page
a crease across the usual trade
this place attracts. My hand
wraps yours and when the band
sings Abba, man to man, we kiss.

A singer on the stage beneath
a screen that somersaults
into the sky, its fringe a rump
of pigeons. Announcements ruffle
through the crowds of patriots -
each one crossed in red, and white,
and blue as dark as airless blood.
Some ghosts in Asia tally votes
and mouth a word: London! London!
Bodies scream and dance and kiss.

Children on the stage. They play
oblivious to sirens screaming
through the square. The crowds
today are pigeons; rats with wings
that peck at bread abandoned round
his plinth. He sees the bowl of London
from his perch, the whirls of smoke
that mark the city's wounds, the litter
of a busted bus to Hackney - trees
decked in death before October's kiss.