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In Praise of Online Journals
About a month ago, the National Book Critics Circle sponsored a panel on the demise of the print journal and the rise of the online journal. Actually, it was a little more complex than that, but the gist of the conversation was this: that libraries and other institutions with diminishing budgets were cutting back on (or eliminating altogether) their literary journal subscriptions, and coupled with the popularity of webzines and other forms of online sites dedicated to publishing contemporary literary works, it seems that the nails of the print journal’s coffin have been inevitably secured.
Panelists bantered back and forth about the benefits and detriments of both sides of the issue, engaging matters of environmentalism (hey, let’s save paper!), to technological literacy (we’re in the digital age, get used to it!), to space limitations (where are we going to keep and store all of these things anyway?), to the preservation of the reader-text intimacy (we can’t hold a computer the way we can hold a book!).
In the end, it came down to the language of economics: funding and supply-and-demand. If less people are buying them, then less will be printed or supported by grants. If less people are demanding to see them in libraries, then libraries will cease to put them up on display. It seemed like a horrific pre-cursor to another looming threat: the end of the book. Will we eventually relinquish the tangible text in exchange for hypertext? Well, it may seem impossible now, given how sentimental we readers are about holding and owning the physical book, but the truth is we continue to train each other on how to read material on the screen. Isn’t that what you’re doing this very moment?
The fact is that blogs (like this one) and webzines and online journals are actually moving us closer to the day in which entire books will be read on the computer. We actually already do that. Don’t we read our manuscripts like that? Can’t we download entire books from virtual booksellers already?
Older folks and technophobes may scoff, but, if you’re over 30 like me, the truth is we will probably not be invited into the conversation. It’s the younger people who will decide for all of us, and they’re the ones growing up techno-savvy. I wonder if there’s anything they don’t do through the computer or some other microchip or micro-battery contraption?
On to poetry: None of the poems in my first book, published in 1999, appeared online. From my second book, published in 2006, exactly ten poems appeared previously in online journals. From my third manuscript, a dozen (that’s nearly one-third of the manuscript) have been published online so far.
I actually welcome the dominance of the online journal. For starters, poetry doesn’t have to be limited to the dimensions of the page, which for me has been an issue of late because my lines are so long. And I dare journal editors tell me that they don’t prefer poems that are only one page in length? How neat and convenient to accept poems that actually fit the single journal page. Need evidence? Just check any literary journal on hand. The proof is definitely in the pudding.
One of the first American literary journals to land on the web was the Electronic Poetry Review back in 1995. Sadly, it will upload its final issue in January of 2008. I published a few of my long line poems with them back in 2002 with Issue 4, and what a relief it was not to have an editor send me galleys with my lines doing all kinds of acrobatics on the page because they didn’t fit the space otherwise. It was then that I began to seek out other online journals that were receptive to my work. I placed poems in:
2nd Avenue Poetry
Diode Poetry Journal
The Rogue Scholars Collective
I spend so much time at the computer and on the Internet, that it’s become natural for me to read poetry online. And more recently, it’s easier for me to submit poetry online as well. Goodbye postage stamp, farewell paper cut.
Mine’s an incomplete list of online journals (obviously!!!). And the Poetry Foundation lists some more here. But can you add online journals we’ve missed so that the PF can update their resource page? Thanks!