I recently read an article in The Australian by one Christopher Bantick, complaining that the internet has destroyed poetry. Good Poetry. The problem? That "just about anyone can be a poet, published at least online." Because Anyone by definiton cannot be a poet (only Good Poets recognize Good Poetry - after all, they write it), "the Muse has been kidnapped and abused."
It is undoubtedly true that never has more hackneyed and boring poetry been produced than now. But then, never has more poetry been produced before now. Some of it is fresh and interesting. There is more of that, too. If more of on-line poetry is experimental than conservative, it is b/c not so many conservative poets have availed themselves of this particular publishing technology. After all, conservatives want to conserve the old and resist the new.
But Bantick points out the flaw in his own reasoning when he writes, "Even Horace back in 65 BC was on the money when he dryly observed: 'Skilled or unskilled, we all scribble poems.' The point is that much digital poetry is just electronic scribble."
Clearly, much hand-written poetry in 65 BC was analog scribble, according to Horace. And that newfangled invention, the printing press, only made matters worse. Anyone with a printing press could produce bad mass-circulation literature - from broadside ballads to penny dreadfuls. If you have any doubt about this, I invite you to thumb through an 18th c. anthology of English verse. Page after page after page of derivative, formulaic heroic couplets. Clearly, the printing press was killing poetry (or at least its former readers). And Alex Pope was on hand to document it.
Then it was mimeographs, then photocopies, and now - ugh! - desktop publishing!
There's no way an on-line journal can have the same stringent quality controls as print journals, b/c it is on the INTERNET! And of course, all print journals publish poetry of the highest order, as we know.
The bottom line: more people are publishing poetry and reading poetry b/c of the internet. If you define poetry by its production and consumption by a cultural elite, then of course the internet is the villain.
I like print. I prefer it to reading a screen b/c it has higher image resolution. So I think it's a shame that it is falling victim to snob appeal.
Of course, the joke may be on me. The only Australian poetry I read is on-line. For all I know, "Christopher Bantick" is the satirical persona of some snikering 20-something avant-gardiste in Brooklyn.
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