Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Burnside Writes

John Burnside has a quick look at poetry on the Net.

It's is one of those hot questions in the poetry world: does poetry work on the Web, and if so, how? How is electronically transmitted verse different from poetry read aloud, or scanned from a conventional book? Is there a magic in the book's physicality, in the smell and feel of it, in the intimacy of it all? In the end, I think there is. On the other hand, poets and poetry lovers can find good stuff on the Web, and in recent weeks, I've been drifting around, in a more or less random fashion, looking for the interesting sites.

A new home-grown poetry site is The Poetry Map, created by the Poetry Society, in London. As its name suggests, users navigate a wealth of information about poetry using a map, whose topography includes such features as a Sea of Inspiration, (specially commissioned poems, celebrating a sense of place), a Pool of Talent, (a heterogeneous list of poets, from the much-hyped to the quieter, some would say more thoughtful, voices), a Factory, Studio and a Police Station for poetry, (the latter to alert users to some of the dodgier aspects of the poetry market).

The main interest of the Poetry Map, (for me, at least), is the information it provides. I find it difficult to enjoy poetry, especially longer works, on a screen. Where the Web might best serve poetry, however, is in providing texts which are not easily available in this country. An example might be La Pagina de Sabines, pages celebrating the work of the great contemporary Mexican poet, Jaime Sabines - or "A Poetic Corner of the Internet", as it's designated by its creator. What makes this site work is quite simply the quality of the poetry combined with a genuine enthusiasm for a fine poet. I still prefer to get my poems from a book, but in the hope of finding more sites like this one, I'll go on poetry surfing - just to see what's out there.