October 26th, 2010 09:51 EST
The Wi-Fi Revolution is Upon Poetry! Wake Up, Publishers and Local Businesses!
Let`s extend the reach of poetry
To arms, to the barricades, poetry presses! But where are the barricades? And what are they?
I have a modest vision. Mirrors in homes with poems scrolling in electronic insets. Screens programmed with poetry built into walls, not just inside but outside public buildings, on buses, trains, airplanes, billboards.
We erect monuments to the dead in our parks and other public places; why then should we not erect monuments to living poetry in the form of electronic billboards? If we sell hot dogs and falafel in our parks, why shouldn`t poetry be available? If we are wiring our parks and transit systems for wi-fi, why shouldn`t poetry be streamed through those wires? We sit in airplanes and watch film on screens installed on the backs of the seats in front of us; why shouldn`t poetry be an option? Or art, for that matter?
In every town and city where they work poetry presses might approach public officials about using public spaces and transportation as vehicles to convey living, changing poetry. The presses could take responsibility for freshening content. It would be a way for local government to recognize the presses as local businesses. If we can find funds for flowers and trees and memorials, why can`t we find funds for exciting, ever-changing electronic billboards?
Why should poetry be confined to covers or shelves or even to conventional ideas of our portals into cyberspace? Why shouldn`t we design new portals? Why should e-readers be the only electronic means to imbue our culture with poetry?
We shouldn`t we adapt touch-screen technology to poetry? Doesn`t it make sense for libraries to embed screens in their facades, screens that would offer poems to passersby day and night? And what about bus stops and subway stations? Wake up, presses! Wake up, communities! This is a grand and inexpensive way to celebrate one of our nation`s crowning achievements, its poetry.
I believe there will always be books of poems that are art objects. The e-book will not kill this tradition, but it will change it. I see no reason why this should not be the moment we employ new technology to give us exciting new ways to enter the poem, to journey within it. Our poetry, art and music are more powerful, more positive than the news. Why should we wallow as a culture in the so-called news and confine the arts and literature to niches? It doesn`t make sense.
Why should our ideas remain fusty when technology is evolving faster than our ability to keep up with it?
I`m old enough to remember critics complaining that e e cummings` abandonment of punctuation was an affectation "some people still say so "and I remember critics arguing that free verse was a mere excuse for bad writing, just as I heard artists and teachers complain that the Abstract Expressionists had abandoned the figure because they couldn`t draw. They would have done better to argue that Abstract Expressionism was a male club that did our women artists dirt. There was an argument that could hold some water.
Well, all good lies bear an element of truth. That`s why they taste good. Ask the politicians. But the fact is that technology is hurrying us along and I see no good reason to resist. I see no challenge to the formalists, and the challenge to the language poets that is inherent in screen technology will be met, I`m sure, and the technology will be richer for it. Indeed, I see the digital era as an exciting time for poets, especially the language poets.
I have already seen high-end mirrors with streaming language programmed into windows. I think this holds promise for poetry. I have seen the headlines circling public rooms in red and blue "why not poetry? We have all seen ATMs embedded in buildings, why not smaller screens with poetry? We have all seen famous quotations affixed to the upper parts of ceilings; why not electronic streams of poetry "particularly in reading rooms? How about streaming electronic poetry in bookstores, perhaps even set into the mirrors of their restrooms? Why they should be caves when they can be illuminated by the flow of metered lines?
Why only reading devices? Or laptop screens? If chalk artists draw exciting paintings on sidewalks, if Basquiat changed our urban landscape with his graffiti, why not poems embedded in sidewalks, lighting up, scrolling beneath our feet?
We need to get our cities, our urban designers and planners in on this project. When the elevated park called the High Line in Manhattan was designed why wasn`t poetry considered? The park isn`t finished; poetry can still be considered. There can be small electronic poetry kiosks.
Small presses, open up conversations with your cities and towns, with your developers and architects, with your public buildings, your hospitals, your schools. Why shouldn`t every school have a poetry screen in its corridors, on its facade? The kids stop to look in mirrors. Let`s embed moving, quickening, sparkling poems in those mirrors.
To the barricades! And let`s keep defining them. I`ve suggested only an inkling of what we might do to harness the power of poetry. I have been arguing that poetry and art is the real news in our society. It is the real frontier. That`s why rap was controversial. Poetry is where it`s at, while the so-called news is a censored version of where it was at.
Djelloul (jeh-lool) Marbrook was born in 1934 in Algiers to a Bedouin father and an American painter. He grew up in Brooklyn, West Islip and Manhattan, New York, where he attended Dwight Preparatory School and Columbia. He then served in the U.S. Navy.
His book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. His poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, poemeleon, The Same, and other journals. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
He worked as a reporter for The Providence Journal and as an editor for The Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, The Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel and The Washington Star. Later he worked as executive editor of four small dailies in northeast Ohio and two medium-size dailies in northern New Jersey.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com