Alex: Have you been going through the literary web,
or has it been more like web shopping?
Beth: Not shopping, but just about everything else. Literary sites,
yes. Horoscopes, which I dont even believe in. Even personals ads,
just for fun...
Alex: Any luck?
Beth: Well, ok, I did respond to one. Through it I learned all about
the two major pitfalls of email. First, its instantaneous. You start
feeling comfortable, you write, oh, anything, push the send button, and
zing, its on the other side of the universe. Come back, you cry. But
its too late. Second, email has no tone indicators, so if youre
emailing someone that doesnt know you, what youve intended as flip
could be taken seriously, or visa versa. Not good. Even a phone
conversation with a stranger allows you to pick up on a multitude of
nuances of tone that we take very much for granted but that are absolute
essential aspects of communication, aspects completely absent from
email, even email following the phone conversation.
Alex: Yes, email is a whole new way of communicating.
Beth: But even more scary than a novice plunging head first into the
personals lake of fire is that fledgling poet dashing off a lyric or two
after work while the pasta is boiling and his blood sugar is dangerously
low, and as soon as the tomato sauce starts to bubble, he hits the send
button and boom, his poetry lands in his best friends new ezine soup,
instead of its being put away in a drawer for the proverbial eight
years. Cyber space is replete with raw and really godawful writing
not just poetry. Ive been appalled by the sheer magnitude of shoddy
writing out there. On the other hand, its wonderful that so many
people are putting on high-quality sites expecting nothing in return. I
mean, in America, this proliferation of creation and communication and
shared information for free. Amazing.
Alex: From its inception onward, the Internet worked best on
a de facto notion of free-stuff. The literary ezines are more or less
upholding that trend. What other sites have you checked out?
Beth: Besides just playing around, just to see whats out there, Ive
been doing a job search, so I spend alot of time at employment sites.
Since Im always teaching, I only need and want part time, and that is
a novel concept in the Bay Area where everyone works 60 hour weeks, not
counting commute time. But mostly Ive just been playing on the
Internet, just seeing whats there.
Alex: You can spend almost a whole day.
Beth: I have.
Alex: Yes, I know. Now that youve seen how much the Internet is
expanding and exploding in terms of chat rooms and discussion groups,
how do you think it will change the way you write in the near future?
Beth: I dont think it will change the way I write, but it might
change the way I publish. Many journals are putting their work online
even if they have a printed version. Feminist Studies, for
instance. I was surprised that that poem was even out there. Its good
in that literary writing is going to be much more accessible to people
who wouldnt otherwise be exposed to it. Many journals are publishing
specific poems in their printed version but additional poems online,
which was the case with the Literary Review. It is already
changing the way people publish. My only concern is that the printed
versions may not be able to compete and survive.
Alex: I know of some journals that have a special online edition with
articles not found in the printed version. They have the extra stuff
Beth: I dont see how they could put it all online because they
wouldnt sell their journals, how would they stay in business, unless
they went totally online. Theres going to be this ambiguous period
during which editors will be trying to figure out how theyre going to
stay in business and still have a presence online. Its going to be
very interesting to see how it all pans out.
Alex: I know of some printed journals just couldnt stay in
business so they went completely online. Satire, for instance.
Beth: Do they sell ads?
Alex: Right now theyre just doing it for the love of it.
Beth: Most editors do it for the love of it anyway, but they do need
the money for the printed version. But now, if you have a free web site
for your business or, say, for a university, or for yourself, at least
you can get something out there.
Alex: Its much cheaper, which accounts for the self-publishing
Beth: Unfortunately that means theres also alot of garbage out
Alex: Thats true, but there are a few online journals that almost
everybody acknowledges as high quality.
Beth: Its no different than with the printed version, there are
excellent and there are dreadful printed versions, the quality is not
the same from journal to journal. Just because its printed doesnt
mean its a high quality journal. Its just much cheaper and
therefore easier to put junk out there online. But then its also
cheaper and easier to expose people to good poetry.
Alex: You live in the San Francisco Bay Area, an area of diverse
cultural activities and communities, and also a very rich literary
community with everything from poetry readings to workshops to
Beth: Conventions. Really.
Alex: Not long ago in Berkeley I went to one with Bob Hass, the
Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival.
Beth: I missed that. Theres so much going on its, oh, another
Bob Hass event. Its pretty overwhelming. Awhile back I went to a
reading with six of the top poets in the country it was a
fundraiser, I think for Squaw Valley and I thought, there arent
even 50 people in this room; why? And its because people can go to
see the best writers in the world any week of the year. At least one,
maybe 10 that week. Its almost overkill. Theres so much that you
dont necessarily get a big turnout for events, so its a nice
dilemma...I dont want to call it a problem...
Alex: A nice situation to be in.
Beth: But if youre doing a fundraiser and you dont get enough
people to buy the tickets so you havent made the money for the
scholarships, that can be not good. I look at Poetry Flash
page after page of lists in small type in big newsprint format about
what events are here, and its ongoing, it never ends.
Alex: Poets from other parts of the country are really jealous and
surprised about how much is going on here.
Beth: You would be surprised, because even if you know this is the
haven, the Mecca, of poetry, or one of them, New York being the other,
unless you see some printed medium that says, heres whats
scheduled for this week, you wouldnt really be able to know, it just
wouldnt occur to you that theres that much.
Alex: Are you involved in any of these local activities, and does it
help your writing in any way?
Beth: Frankly, I dont think it impacts on my writing at all. Im
influenced almost entirely by what I read. And I love rousing
discussions about literature, process, any aspect of writing. Im not
terribly involved, in terms of readings. I have a friend, Geri Digiorno, who does the Petaluma Poetry Walk, and I have helped
her a little, very little, and I will be introducing some of the poets
again this year. But I dont really like to do readings myself. I dont
mind reading in class, I dont know why that is, I like that, but
theres something about reading your own work in front of a group. I
dont know, I just dont like it, so why do it? Of course I teach a
great deal, which I love, and I go to peoples events sometimes,
although not often, frankly if you live here you can afford to be
selective. And unlike almost every other writer I know, Im not in any
writing groups. I am conducting some workshops. Charlotte Muse and I
just got together this afternoon she also teaches creative writing
at UC Berkeley and is an excellent poet and were going to do some
creative writing workshops. Weve each done them before. This time
around were going to do 10 weeks of them together on Tuesday nights
down here in Menlo Park.
Alex: When does the workshop start?
Beth: This round begins August 17.
Alex: If someone wanted to go to this workshop, where would they go
to look for this information?
Beth: Were going to send out information to people who are on our
mailing lists. It will already be in progress by the time Able Muse
goes online. In the future, if we decide to run it again, we might put
an ad in Poetry Flash. Or anyone can email us for info. I feel so
hip saying that.