In a recent vlog post by Steve Roggenbuck, he said, "Almost every poetry book is eighty pages long. Almost every poetry book is twelve-point-god-dang font. Black on white. Left-aligned. I'm interested in a more flowing culture." Later, he exclaimed that, "Everything is literature," and then cited examples like twitter.
Steve, what is the alternative? Or better yet, is there an alternative?
there are endless alternatives. my suggestion is to take whatever you really like (in literature or other activities) and just do that, maybe even isolate that. allow yourself to do what you love completely instead of reverting to conventions. there are so many things i used to do just because it's what poets do. over time i've become progressively more open to doing different things, and now i'm not even sure if i'm a "poet"; i'm not actively trying to do anything to be a poet anymore, i'm just doing what i like
i like graphic design, i like posting on social media, and i like (post-)ironic humor, so i freely blend my poetry with all of these things. if you like knitting, maybe you should knit your poems. it won't automatically make your poems better, but it would be a more interesting format than plain text, and you would probably love the process a lot more
if you can't think of anything that makes you more excited than just plain text, i think it's fine to write plain-text poems. there are other ways to focus on what you love. the only thing i worry about is if people feel restricted, like once they enter "poetry" they might think they have to sound like "a poet," create poems that "look like poems," etc. my message is to freely take what you like from poetry and take what you like from other forms of culture (for example, the knitting idea) and just do what you really like. if you do, i think you'll have more fun and you will generally stand out from other poets too
In regard to poem, how important is font?
font choice is not crucial to all poems. some of my favorite books, i'm not aware what font they are set in, and for classic works, different editions may have different fonts, and i might enjoy them all equally. but i think it's a place where poets can add value and meaning, and where you can differentiate yourself if you like
there is no neutral font choice, you know... allowing the book designer to take care of it doesn't mean that it's non-existent. everyone is swayed to some degree by product design. some of that might seem like cheap, surface-level branding, but visual design is also just a big part of "style," and style is something connected to personality, ideas, and discourse--things that matter to many contemporary writers. if you are trying to express an overall aesthetic or worldview, like i am, then font choice is potentially very valuable. if you are trying to create enjoyment for people, like i am, font choice also may be very valuable
In many academic circles, the centered justification of a poem is often thought to be taboo. Though, would you argue that the demonization of the 'centered poem' is strictly related to a hierarchical American literature? Left-aligned, centered, right-aligned--do you think any one of those arrangements actually benefit a poem?
i think just the willingness to do something different, and the willingness to become more aware of the poem as a visual object seems valuable. i have always defended people who center their poems or use script fonts, haha. i just think people should be encouraged to fit poetry into their own tastes and interests. if using a certain style, alignment, or font (or subject matter, theme, reference, etc) can make poetry more fun to you, more relevant to you, then i think that's great. i don't see the point in professionalizing or standardizing the appearance of poems. poetry already feels too professional in my opinion. i am in favor of allowing more personality and individual style into poems. i just want more people in our society to have fun writing poetry in a way that makes them more excited about their life
I've been thinking a lot lately about something Johannes Göransson wrote in one of his blog posts: "How many times have I heard supposedly experimental writers say, 'The Internet is great, but there's so much shit published on it . . . ' The shit makes the Internet interesting." How would you respond to this? Do you see a poem as something that can either succeed or fail?
"The shit makes the internet interesting" could maybe be a slogan for flarf poetry
the deeper idea behind the quote seems to be about there being fewer gatekeepers online in general. some people complain about the lack of quality control, but i think it's great. anybody has a chance of reaching readers. it's much more democratized. actually taking advantage of the situation requires a lot of perseverance and, yes, "marketing" in some sense, but i think it's amazing that i can reach an audience without an editor ever approving my material. part of my aim with my career is to demonstrate this and inspire others to do the same.
i think there is amazing opportunity right now for poets who want to build a readership online. you don't need to impress institutions or raise money or anything now; all you need is (1) writing that people actually like and want to keep reading, and (2) dedication to keep posting and caring about your community over time
yeah there are probably thousands of poetry blogs that neither of us would like at all. but if nobody likes it, it will just be ignored; nobody will subscribe to it or remember the URL. it's not harming anyone that it exists. and even if people do end up reading and liking "bad poetry" on the internet, then so what? the same people were probably already watching "bad television." i think it's great that these people are writing and that poetry can be a part of their life
Book or ebook?
tumblelog :) or, to be honest, probably a combination of book, ebook, and tumblelog.
if you serialize your writing and post it regularly at the same place online, and if it's good enough that people come back (and tell others to come), then you can gradually accumulate followers and returning readers over time. tumblr especially speeds up the process because of the built-in "reblog" feature. also, if you do want to release a book later (either of the online material or a different project), you'll have a place where you can promote it to people who like your stuff. of course this probably won't work for all writers, but i'm finding that i really enjoy the freedom and the active engagement with my readers
Steve Roggenbuck has published two short poetry collections online, i am like october when i am dead and DOWNLOAD HELVETICA FOR FREE.COM. He is a vegan and a buddhist. He posts image- and video-based poetry regularly on his tumblelog, LIVE MY LIEF.