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Kenny Goldsmith Writes About Internet Poetry for The New Yorker

By Harriet Staff


Since this a poetry blog on the Internet, we thought we’d point you to a blog post about poetry on the Internet. The New Yorker has Kenny Goldsmith writing about Steve Roggenbuck’s new anthology, The Yolo Pages, “an epic anthology of poems, tweets, image macros, and prose from over 50 people.” Goldsmith also ties in Walt Whitman and Ryan Trecartin. Here go:

The YOLO Pages” (YOLO means “you only live once”) feels like the Internet itself, jammed with screen caps of Twitter updates, image macros, and Photoshopped collages that appear between lineated verse, short stories, and blog entries. It’s a wide-ranging anthology of fifty writers, bringing together promising young poets like Luna Miguel and Cassandra Gillig and more established figures like Tao Lin, Patricia Lockwood, and K. Silem Mohammad. Outsiders such as @Horse_ebooks—a popular Twitter feed that was widely believed to be generated by a robot before it was revealed that there was a human composing the tweets—and the pop-singer-cum-model-cum-motivational-speaker Andrew W.K. (represented here by a string of feel-good party tweets) are also thrown into the mix. There’s a remarkable similarity of stylistics—the use of Internet-speak—across the book that ties together this disparate group.

At least half the book is made up of tweets. The best of them are by Jacob Bakkila, a.k.a. Horse_ebooks, whose spirit percolates through the anthology. Beginning in 2010, the astonishingly bizarre spam verbiage spewed forth by the feed seems to have inspired many of the other poets represented here. Bakkila is represented by two dozen tweets. At their best, his tweets read like a contemporary version of haiku: “Their negativity only served to push me deeper into the realms of soap making,” or “HOLY COW!!… DOG TOYS ARE GETTING EXPENSIVE WHY NOT.” Other strong Twitter poems appear by Anthony Peregrine, Bianca Shrimpton, Tom Hank, Martin Bell, and Patricia Lockwood, whose poem in its entirety reads, “I’m selling my body on Craigslist — not for sex, but because it’s haunted.” They’re useful examples of how much feeling and humor can be packed into this compressed form.

Amid vomit jokes and image macros of cats, there are poems that obliquely grapple with bigger issues of mortality, politics, feminism, capitalism, and the environment, such as Santino Dela’s beautiful “no raindrop / feels responsible / for the flood,” and Catalina Gallagher’s up-to-the-minute conundrum, “how can i somehow…use selfies..to stop climate change…” Martin Bell’s tweets are the most explicitly political, echoing the truisms of Jenny Holzer: “holding your newborn for the first time thinking about how he’ll just be another anonymous employee for the rest of his life someday,” or “we didn’t crawl out of the ocean to punch the clock.”

Read it all at The New Yorker.

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Posted in Poetry News on Friday, May 9th, 2014 by Harriet Staff.