-- If you haven't picked up a copy of LitKicks' Action Poetry, what are you waiting for? This is a great book with a lot of fresh voices -- a perfect travelling companion for your summer road trip. Support emerging styles, indie writers and underrepresented markets by purchasing this collection. And if you like it, tell everyone you know.
-- Got the book? Get the gear -- don't forget to check out our selection of LitKicks shirts, hats and totes here, as well as here. My personal favorites are the "Got Absinthe?" t-shirts -- want to make people stop in their tracks? This is one way to do it.
-- Is anger management the way to go, or should you just let it flow? Revisit this interesting discussion from October Earth.
-- Can't get away this summer? Take a trip to Tangier as Levi highlights the literary connections and history of this exotic port.
-- Who says we only write around here? Visit the archives and check out the Postage Stamp Series. You may not be able to send a letter to your grandma with these, but they sure look cool.
On this week's menu:
James Joyce: Since today is Bloomsday (the day Joyce's Leopold Bloom roamed Dublin in Ulysses), it's only fitting that we spend a little time reconnecting with James Joyce.
When Corso Dropped His BOMB: Poet Gregory Corso's BOMB is a unique roiling celebratory mass. Not only are you treated to an original audio recording of the piece read by its author, we offer several photos and the background behind this 'performance'.
American Sycamore by George Wallace: New York poet George Wallace offered up this short poem for our 24 Hour Poetry Party last July. While simple in tone and language, the deliberate pace of the poem radiates a mysterious intensity that seems appropriate for summer.
We think we found it at blogads.com. This company was created by Henry Copeland to make it easy for content sites like LitKicks to work with advertisers. The service is personal, high quality and very efficient; if you run a good high-traffic blog on any subject, or if you would like to run ads of your own, you may want to check this company out yourself.
We're psyched to be working with BlogAds.com, and our first blogad from BlogAds features "Break, Blow, Burn", a study of world poetry by in-your-face social critic Camille Paglia. Her selections skew heavily towards the classical rhymers of centuries past, and it's an interesting list, although the only poems in my own top 50 that make her list are "Ozymandias", "Kubla Khan", "Song of Myself", "The Second Coming" and "Daddy". And where the hell is Prufrock?
But Camille Paglia is all about the spirited argument, and this book promises to contain many of them. We're glad to kick the new LitKicks advertising program off with a bang, and we really hope you'll support the return of the LitKicks ad program by checking Camille Paglia's book out, if you're interested in that sort of thing; and if you've got books, chapbooks, CDs or anything of your own you'd like to pitch, please think about buying an ad.
Finally, if you've got anything to say about LitKicks's new skin, new advertising program or new general direction, don't be shy ...
There are a lot more site changes on the way, especially a better right nav, a new version of the indie ads program, and better genre/topic article indexing. For now, we just wanted to get the new look up and make sure it doesn't break anything. Please let us know if it does.
We knew this was an unusually rigid format for a website, but it made a statement we liked at the time. We wanted every word to count, and we wanted to set an example of careful and serious writing that would inspire our contributors to write as well as they could in their responses. For myself as one of the site's three main writers, the interactivity amounted to a challenge that stretched my skills and frequently forced me out of my literary comfort zone, as I tried to keep up with the varied sensibilities represented by all our contributors, and produce pieces worthy of their time.
Over the months I wrote some stuff I am proud of and some stuff I'd be happy to never see again. My personal favorite moment was probably the two-week best poem in the world discussion. I asked a simple question, and I was really surprised by the passion and conviction of the numerous responses, which also made me realize I would have to write a hell of a follow-up response myself. I only hope I lived up to the expectations.
Caryn and Jamelah and I have worked with this format for six months now, living through a presidential election, a tsunami and a few sad deaths. Today, the LitKicks staff is happy to announce that we've now decided to begin loosening up the flow a bit. Instead of a strict three pieces a week, we are tossing the schedule out the window, and we're each just going to write when we feel like it. This will probably lead to more, shorter postings, along with occasional longer pieces. We hope this new approach will also help us include more of the interesting contributions we've been getting.
We think you'll like some of the other changes we're about to roll out, including an increased focus on the news/contemporary-lit front (based on Caryn's excellent Seen and Heard columns) and a new improved design with better navigation and Firefox compatibility, which we're going to premiere any day now (Jamelah's been working very hard on the CSS, and to be honest we're a bit worried about her).
We're also very close to bringing back the long-awaited LitKicks advertising program with an all-new interface that will make it easier to buy space to promote your small press publications, chapbooks, artworks, music, crafts or websites. Finally, we're improving the indexing and retrievability of the archived content, because there's a lot of good stuff buried in these files. This is one of the changes to the site we are most excited about.
The only thing we're not changing is the action poetry board because we like the way that's going.
We'd love to show you all of these changes today, but we're still cooking it all up out back. Stay tuned!
The boards grew and evolved into a massive social experiment, often taking on a life of their own. Last July, 684,000 messages later, Caryn and Jamelah and I decided to shut down the boards and redesign the entire site for a more focused, literary experience. We've been getting hate mail ever since. Take, for instance, this charming missive that recently arrived: "You should know that you have singlehandedly destroyed a great community. I could never have guessed that you would commit such a selfish and domineering act to people who were your friends, by which I include myself."
The truth is, we like getting hate mail because it makes us feel like someone cares what we do. But, in fact, it was a very difficult decision for us to change the site, and I guess it was my own techie pride that prevented me from revealing one major reason we had to make this change. By the summer of last year, the board software was falling apart.
Once healthy and fast, the system was choking on its backlog of data, and it could take two or three minutes to pull up a message more than a few months old. In early 2004, many of us tried to read through the old boards to find the best poems and stories to use in the Action Poetry book, and this was when it became clear how bad the situation had become. Any message over a year old had been lost in a cold oblivion, from which it might be coaxed out if the software felt like it. I had always viewed the boards as a literary experiment, but literature is something that endures through time, and the software wasn't letting this happen.
In fact, I work as a web systems architect, and I know how to build scalable community software that can elegantly handle massive amounts of traffic. But LitKicks wasn't built that way. I had never set up the infrastructure required to handle the level of activity we were getting on this site, and by the summer of 2004 LitKicks was a Titanic waiting to sink. If you ever tried to read a LitKicks page and saw a Java error -- well, yeah, that was the iceberg peeking through the hull.
I liked the old boards a lot. There was a creative anarchy there, and a real spirit of fun. But there was also an overriding mood of underachievement, a sort of prevailing "dumb chic" (no doubt inspired by Charles Bukowski, the epitome of dumb chic), that seemed like a creative dead end. Occasional moments of genius cropped up on one board or another, but there were also long stretches of depressing banality. By the spring of 2004 I wasn't sure if I wanted to rebuild the existing site with a different software package or instead come up with an all new format, a new beginning for LitKicks. I asked Jamelah and Caryn if either of them felt remotely satisfied with the boards, and when they both told me they didn't, the decision seemed clear: shake things up, try something new.
The new LitKicks is still "finding itself", I think. The public reaction to the board shutdown was more negative than I'd expected, and I think some people are still warming up to the new format, which is designed to move slower and generate more thoughtful writings and conversations. But LitKicks has been around for more than ten years, and the site is designed to change, to evolve, to do surprising things. The current version is our latest attempt at being what we should be, but we're not going to rest or stop here, just as we've never stopped at any of our previous incarnations.
As for the old boards, I'm happy to tell you that I've moved them all to a brand new archive server, designed to be fast and error-free. Here it is, for all posterity: the permanent LitKicks Board Archive.
Looking back at this vast array of human-generated spontaneous content, I have to wonder, what does it all mean? There are over a hundred thousand poems here, for instance ... but what do they all add up to in the larger scheme of things? How can these poems be read? What significance does yesterday's stream of literary ephemera hold today, if any?
I was very proud when the Library of Congress included posts from various LitKicks boards in September and October 2001 in their web archive of that moment in history. But what about the rest of this huge mass of content? I am really not sure what good this archive is, and for that matter I am still not exactly sure what good LitKicks is. I'd like to hear what you think, and I'd like to know whether or not you think these old boards are worth archiving at all, and why.
I also wanted to explain why I left two of the more popular (but less literary) LitKicks boards out of the permanent archive. It was a hard decision not to migrate Mindless Chatter to the new server. But this board had about three times as many messages as any other LitKicks board, and while most of it certainly was mindless, I really didn't find that much of it was timeless. We had laughs on this board, but you probably had to be there, and you can't be there anymore, so Mindless Chatter didn't make it to the archive.
I felt less ambivalent about my decision not to move the Flames board into the archive. This actually felt good to me. During the 42 months of the LitKicks Boards Experience, I often had to remind writers that the point of LitKicks wasn't to help strangers dislike each other, but to help them like each other. Flames was a fun place (some of my own best posts showed up there, I think) ... but I am not going to pay disk charges to store hatred and misunderstanding. Both these commodities are cheap, and readily available elsewhere.
Anyway, I do have text-file backups of these boards, along with the others, so nothing is lost to posterity. I hope you'll go visit the LitKicks Board Archive in its new home, and I think you'll agree with me that there's a hell of a lot of interesting stuff there. Thanks for being part of it, if you were. And whether you were or not ... hang around, and help us figure out what the current version of LitKicks is supposed to evolve into.
"Do you think LitKicks has a flavor? Is post-beat a word? Post-Modern? Transgressive? Modern? Retro daydreamers? Can you label us as a whole and more importantly, do you think that label would stick?"
What do you think? Is there a label or name that fits in this case? If so, what would it be?
As many long-time LitKickers know, earlier this year we invited all site members to nominate a few poems or stories they'd read here for inclusion in the first LitKicks book. We got over a hundred suggestions, which Jamelah and Caryn and I trimmed down to about 25. We also added some selections of our own, and this final mix became one of the three sections of the book.
As one of the three editors of this volume, I have to say that the process was fascinating but probably completely un-scientific. The very concept of selecting a tiny number of poems from the huge collected works of a large online community is highly disconcerting. For every poem or story nominated, a thousand others are overlooked. And how much does "popularity" or personality have to do with the choices made?
Well, I really like the way the book turned out, and in fact I think the nomination process worked surprisingly well. There may have been some "popularity" votes or maybe even some sympathy votes, but I don't think these made it past the final cut. It was also encouraging to see that some of the pieces nominated -- at least a couple of which ended up in the book -- were by writers who showed up once, posted a single piece, commented on nobody else's writing, and never turned up again. Most of our favorite regulars made it into the book too. I think we ended up with a good balance.
But maybe I'm too close to it to see clearly. If you have a copy of this book, I'd like to know what you think of it. If you don't have a copy, I'd like you to buy one, but whether you do or not, I'd also like to know if you have any thoughts about the general concept of online-based or community-generated literature.
These are just a few reasons why we hope you will write us a poem about what you are doing or thinking about today.
Check out our pictures from the event and follow the links for more eyewitness accounts...
Gallery Neptune Artist/Owner, Elyse Harrison
Caryn warms up the crowd and introduces the first act...
Andrew Lundwall then shares some great poetry against a surreal playground backdrop.
Jamelah recounts a childhood memory and entrances the audience with her cool intensity.
Elyse & Levi concentrating on poetry
John Lawson tells a clever tale of a literary mystery that spans all genres, ages and intersections.
firecracker looks on
WIREMAN, blasts out "Kid Stuff"
Levi shares his childhood literary secret... as well as a few moving poems.
The Audience, Amazed.
Star Jewel Smith and The Giving Tree
Doreen prepares to connect us with words.
Michael Boettcher shares a clever villanelle and reads a few of his pieces from "The Furnace"
Lightning Rod... lost in a literary fantasy.
Andrew & Star
Taking a break
Doreen, Wireman & Lenny
L-Rod offers a home remedy
Doreen & Lightning Rod perform their collaborative piece, "You Make"
A Happy Crowd
Jamelah acts out the children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Vorst Coming out from behind the camera One last glimpse of Gallery Neptune See more pictures here
Read more about the evening here and here.
Jamelah acts out the children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Vorst
Coming out from behind the camera
One last glimpse of Gallery Neptune
See more pictures here