Marcella Durand

Initially slow to be weaned from the lovely physicality of paper books & magazines, many poets have realized that webzines are cheap & easy. Once you’ve gotten past the initial costs of buying a computer & getting internet service — this is a supposedly booming economy, so lots of poets right now have jobs with that stuff gratis — “printing” and “distribution” are a breeze.

Basically, if you liked pressing buttons on plastic telephones when you were a kid, this is your dreamtime to edit a webzine. Copyediting and proofing paper text can be endless, and layout and distribution too, are pains in the poetical butt. Layout is easy with HTML editors, in that you can’t really do a lot — “non-breaking space” is probably the command I use the most for laying out poems. Proofing is so much easier too, in that poet and publisher can go back and forth reading proofs online and e-mailing changes to each other. The web-text is never solid. It is liquid and can be corrected ad infinitum. And for distribution, just do an e-mail broadcast! Join some poetry listservs & you’ve got it made.

The Poetry Project’s literary print magazine, The World, comes out once, maybe twice a year. We (I work at the Poetry Project) get text on disk. We proof against hard copies. We send out galleys. We get some back. We add the changes. More galleys come in, late. We add more changes. We proof against originals again. We proof without originals, and send a letter to the poet asking questions about weird spelling, weird words. She/he faxes back illegible copies. We phone her/him. We add changes. We proof again. We layout. We proof again. We layout more. One final proof. Artwork added (a whole other laborious process). We send to printer. Don’t see again for months. Get back. See big mistake. Poet complains. Everyone complains. Everyone cries.

With the Project’s webzine, Poets & Poems, which I edit, things are a bit easier. It’s published bimonthly, a frequency which we could never match in paper. And communication between poet & publisher is a bit more fluid when the poet can proofread their own work online and add changes via e-mail. Another nice thing is that all issues of the webzine are one, so to speak. One can read previously published work alongside new work. It’s a big amalgam of wonderful writing.

Interestingly enough, many poets are still uncomfortable writing online. Few poets really write for a web-space; i.e., utilize the multitextual possibilities of HTML (check out some of the work in The Transcendental Friend for examples of some great multitextual work). I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of web art/text. I find the visual aspect of a computer screen incredibly lacking in interest. The sound/text possibilities are a little more intriguing, but the multitext space of the Internet is It, in my mind.

Anyway, in the time I’ve been editing the Poetry Project’s website, the number of interesting webzines has risen dramatically, and become major forums of poetry. All the advantages the mimeo revolution enjoyed have transferred to the Internet: ease, immediacy, price, fun. And once we’re all cybernetically implanted with little brain chips, things will really take off.

Marcella Durand is the webmaster and editor of the Poetry Project website. She and Anselm Berrigan interview each other in this issue.

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