Two names. DJ Berndt and Shaun Gannon. United, they are the D-Generation X of the online lit scene as well as the driving force behind this past week's much-discussed, Let People Poems--an online literary forum in which anyone can contribute writing. There is no submission guidelines or editor. There is nothing but the opportunity to share one's work with the rest of the online lit community. The project began as a Blogspot, but due to this past week's sudden rise in the number of contributors, LPP quickly moved to Wordpress. Here's what the two writers had to say about their project:
PC: So how did the concept for Let People Poems come about?
SG: Well, I have the chat log where we came up with it. So we were talking on Gmail chat really late and DJ said we should start a lit-blog:
"Let people poems," said DJ.
"I don't know if that will pan out. Let people poems," Shaun replied.
"Hahahahaha," laughed DJ.
"I like let people poems," said Shaun. "Straight to the point, obliquely."
"Yeah," replied DJ. "Let people poems."
"And let literally anyone post something," said Shaun. "Like they email you for an invite to blog there. And then they can upload whatever! And have no limit on who can join!"
SG: So the title, "Let People Poems," came from a typo, or grammatical error. But it made me think that was the perfect way to express the idea for an awesome site. Where we simply let people poems. I just really liked the idea of having a completely open lit site with a facilitator and not an editor.
DB: Yeah, basically, Shaun and I were Gmail chatting late one night and somehow the phrase, "let people poems," stumbled out of me and Shaun ran with it. We were excited to see if an open, organic lit blog would grow. Or just become spam and die.
PC: Well, people are still contributing. Did you imagine the site would attract so many writers?
SG: I didn't expect it to attract as many people considered "prevalent." Like the first post was xTx, who is all over. And then Frank Hinton posted pretty quickly, too. And then the Internet Poetry bros also got into it pretty quickly. So I was just surprised to see it embraced by a lot of writers I admire. It makes sense . . . how things branch out via word of mouth. That people who were 'strangers' to me would end up posting. But I didn't expect it to happen so quickly.
DB: I definitely didn't expect it to explode like it did. It's kind of crazy to me that we got 11,000ish hits in one week. I think it says something really positive about the lit community as a whole. I think that, despite out differences about what we all think poetry is, we can all just get together and let people poems. It was so funny (and cool) for me to see people talking about LPP on other forums and blogs.
SG: Yeah, there might be bickering and whatnot between people, but whatever man. If you want to post here, you can post here. I'm not going to ban people for having slap-fights in comment threads.
PC: I'll get behind that. How important are the comment sections?
SG: The comment sections are really important to the site. I think being able to communicate with one another on the site is what makes it a community. And not just a list of poems.
DB: If somehow a community sparked out of LPP, that would be really cool, I think.
PC: Definitely. So is LPP here to stay?
SG: That's all up to the contributors. I'll keep paying for the domain and keeping that gate open as long as people are coming in.
PC: So would you say that one should "let people poems" because it simply strengthens a sense of community in terms of online literature?
DB: Well, it's kind of an organic thing to me. It grows and takes its shape based solely on trends that people make up. For example, the "Craigslist" poems about female online writers was awesome for me to watch, because it evolved solely out of creativity--in an open forum. People just ran with it.
SG: Yeah, the fact that we're willing to respond to each others' poems shows how we're working as a community.
PC: Additionally, all of the work on LPP is actually really good.
DB: I'm really surprised at how responsible and creative people have been.
SG: It's very surprising to me--the level of quality. Since it's entirely open, we could have had nothing but awful high schoolers posting trash.
PC: Right, well, what would you do if awful high schoolers did begin posting trash?
SG: If that is what LPP becomes, then that is what it becomes. It's an open forum. That's the entire point. But the beautiful thing about it is that LPP is so quality!
DB: Anything can be posted there. The only thing Shaun and I did was put up a big, blank piece of paper. Everyone else filled it in.
SG: I think the only time I wouldn't let someone "poem" is if they were going to spam the site without taking the community into regard. Contributors were getting upset when a poster was posting immediately after they did to circumvent the 'no double-posting' rule. And this poster wasn't contributing any comments or interested in criticism of the work. If you spam the site with quality and you are willing to communicate with the writers in the comment threads, then you win, in my eyes. But when you're shoving others out of the sandbox--when you're not letting them play--that's unfair.
PC: Right. And this particular sandbox is spacious. There's no need for shoving. Currently, I'd say that it's a great resource for writers. Especially writers new to the online literature scene.
DB: Also, I think some readers think LPP possibly sold out because there are ads on our site. But they are there by default. We're not making any money if you click on those ads. It's just too expensive to have them removed.
PC: Yeah, everyone. Let People Poems is not 'the system.'
DB: In closing, we would just like to thank everyone who contributed and who will contribute to LPP in the future. I think it's remarkable--how well it's done. And it's just because people were cool with it. So everyone who contributed, pat yourself on the back, champs!
SG: Yeah, this is all on them. We're just here to let people poems.
PC: Anything else?
SG: I AM SHAUN GANNON!
DJ: Shaun Gannon cannot arm wrestle!
DJ: We like to end professionally.
DJ Berndt blogs at Self-Conscious and is the founding editor at Pangur Ban Partyand an editor at Metazen. His work has appeared in places like decomP, For Every Year, and My Name is Mud. He is a bb. Go vikings!
Shaun Gannon is the author of the echapbook, Casual Glory; or, Macaulay Culkin Does Nothing (Pangur Ban Party, 2010). He is currently in the MFA program at the University of Maryland. His work has also been published in places such as Everyday Genius and The Corduroy Mtn. He blogs [here]