So… Yet Another Webzine
I've avoided writing this essay for months, but not because I don't think KIN has a role to play. No, rather, it has to do with two seemingly contradictory ideas that are, I think, two ways of saying the same thing:
- We (and I mean every single goddamn last one of us) know jackshit about how the internet works, really.
- Where the internet's concerned, there really is nothing to understand. Let's perhaps deal with these in turn, even at the risk of some implicit repetition.
In the first place, my adult life has been filled with fatuous proclamations about the internet—it'll lead to an outpouring of global democracy; it'll mean no one will read books in five years; it'll turn 75% of Americans into sex-crazed porno fiends who sit on their fat asses all day in front of the computer, eating corn chips and compulsively slapping the old joystick; it'll mean everyone will live on his or her own asteroid in thirty years. And all of this without recognizing that at the rate we're going, we're going to run out of fossil fuels relatively soon, by which point the polar ice caps will be melted, and this place will be underwater, anyway.
Now, I may have gilded or even made up a few of those predictions, but you know the kind of stuff I mean—the grand prognostications about where digital culture will take us. I'm chary about such things myself. Chou En-Lai was famously asked what he thought about the significance of the French Revolution, to which he replied that it was "too early to tell." With the internet, we are very much in an analogous situation. The technology, rules of etiquette, legal jurisdictions, etc. are still developing quite rapidly.
But if we can't predict it, at least not very well, we can at the same time, mold how our little corner of cyberspace evolves—and, being associated with a print journal that has a fairly minimal online presence, I mean "our" loosely. To a greater or lesser extent, most webzines follow print protocols. They have issues that come out at regular times. Their layouts, in various ways, recall, print as well. More web-specific forms such as blogs are often sequestered from the journal itself. This is starting to change, but it's a period of experimentation, some inspired, much of it baffling, and it's exciting to watch for those of us on the print side of things that I doubt is going to vanish any time soon.
Thus, despite there being a whole panoply of poetry web sites out there—journals such as Umbrella, bloggish poetry-and-pop culture sites such as E-Verse, Establishment reprint machines such as Verse Daily—the field is still wide open and chaotic, and any old thing can go viral while most... attract a sub-minimal readership. What impresses me about what Uche, Eric, Wendy, and Walter are trying to do here is a willingness to experiment with the possibilities of cyberspace, to try to integrate things that technological limitations have heretofore demanded be separate, and, rather than beat the po-biz nabobs at their own game, to change the rules of that game. So, do we need another web entity like this? I'm not sure, but I wish them luck with it.
Quincy Lehr's is the author of several collections, most recently Shadows and Gifts (2013) and the book-length poem, Heimat (summer 2014). He lives in Brooklyn, where he teaches history.