Z I N E n
new media






+ + +

a journal of new media experimental visual literary theory practice


Ted Warnell


Features, reviews, papers

Poets on the Super Highway? Look out, world. Aren't poets more likely to run their hands through tumbled locks, languish on a velvet couch, or recline amongst the wildflowers on the banks of a rippling stream?

First published as In Other Words at Art & Technology, The Mining Company, New York. Copyright © 1997 by The Mining Company and Ted Warnell. All rights reserved.


1997 OCT 19

Whatever Next!

Believe it or not,
poets today are interested in things technological. This makes a lot of sense, because there are many opportunities on the Internet for poets. Despite their chosen vocation, they do sometimes tear their thoughts away from metaphor and alliteration to keep up with the modern world. Some even use computers to write their poetry. It's only one more step to venture onto the Internet.

    "The Internet is a great way to communicate with other poets around the world. You can have a look at the home pages of other poets, which are like on-screen ads or even electronic magazines..."
Of course, you do have to be linked up to the Internet, and use a browser. You need a reasonably powerful computer, a modem, and a telephone connection to plug into. You will have to subscribe to an Internet access server, a company which gets you networking with the world.

In Australia, if your bank balance is not large enough to buy the necessary equipment, you can go to a state library in your nearest major city, get an Internet card, and go online for free. Or you can pay about $5 at an Internet Cafe to sip coffee and travel the Internet for 15 to 30 minutes.

Using a search engine, you can begin by just typing in a word such as `poetry'. However, you will get a list of several hundred thousand possibilities. It is less confusing if you can be more specific. You could type in the name of a particular poet (e.g., Wordsworth), or limit the options by typing in "poetry competitions" or "Australian publishers". Adding quotation marks at each end of the phrase also narrows down the search considerably.

The Internet is a great way to communicate with other poets around the world. You can have a look at the home pages of other poets, which are like on-screen ads or even electronic magazines (ezines) which poets set up to display their work. Many of these have an email address which you can click on with your mouse. Some poets like to get constructive feedback about their poetry, and sometimes will continue correspondence via email because they enjoy communicating with other poets.

There are also chat pages, which are like typed conversations between poets all over the world. It's a great way to broaden your horizons, `meet' other poets, and learn about the way poetry is written at this moment. Of course, there are chat pages about many other subjects, but I am writing this article for people who are interested in poetry, or at least, writing!

If you think that you would like to put up a poetry page yourself, there are a number of ways you can go about it. Mostly it costs money, because you pay someone to do the artwork and layout, and to look after it for you. However, I have discovered there are a growing number of sites on the Internet that let you construct your own home page for free (the host for my Web site is a case in point). Once you've registered, you are given a password, which allows you to set up your home page just how you would like it, using their program, graphics, and so on. If you know HTML code, you can set it up from scratch. Links to other sites can be included, and you can feature your own work to your heart's content. The only limitation is that your home page must be no larger than the online capacity offered by your host.

This is probably a good time to tell you about my own almost fairy-tale experience with the Internet. I was aimlessly looking around at poetry pages one afternoon when I came across a Web site put up by an artist-based publisher. It was set out like a colourful newsletter, and displayed the magical words `new poets wanted'. I took a closer look, and read that this publisher wanted to encourage poets and poetry by publishing a chapbook (i.e., a small book) every month featuring different poets and their work. Wasting no time, I emailed them a selection of 25 of my poems. A few days later, an email arrived from the publisher, saying that she liked my poetry and wanted to publish it. After more correspondence, I found out a few important things:

    a. I would be paid a royalty for every book sold;
    b. the publisher would handle everything, including distribution, although I could buy some books to sell myself if I wished;
    c. the copyright would remain mine; if I wanted to re-publish any of the poems, all I would have to do would be to acknowledge that she was the first publisher;
    d. the illustrations could be added by the publisher from her comprehensive collection of clip art, or I could have my own illustrator (I took the second option);
    e. the book would be allotted an ISBN number.

As the book developed, she suggested a much better title than the one I had tentatively chosen, and also sent me proofs twice, asking for my input. She was very patient with me when I asked for changes to be made, to improve the layout and appearance of the publication.

The really amazing thing about this whole process was that this publisher is in Connecticut, U.S.A., and I live in Australia. If it hadn't been for the Internet, I could still have been trying to interest a publisher in producing a book of my poetry. In keeping with the technological flavour of this whole story, my book, An Unsorted Drawer, is also available for people to order online. Although it will never make me rich, I was thrilled to see my work, not only actually in print, but advertised for sale on the Internet. (Note: the same publisher has just accepted another collection of my poems for publication, due out by Easter 1998.)

Something else that has proved to be very useful is the online Australian telephone directory. This is another way to discover publishers' names and addresses. Most Australian publishers do not have a home page yet, so you do have to write to them (via conventional or `snail mail').

If you like entering competitions, there are plenty to choose from on the Internet. One that I found was a continuous story. People were invited to write the next chapter; these were then judged, with the best one being screened as part of the book. I think it was up to chapter 5 when I looked at it last. Other competitions offer cash prizes. Some of the competitions we know through our writers groups and newsletters are also online.

Several poetry sites invite poets to submit work, with some selecting work to be the featured poem/s for a week or more. A word of caution: ask what their views on copyright are before you send your work. One site I contacted sounded a bit iffy, so I didn't send any. Most abide by the standard rule, i.e., the copyright belongs to the writer. It is a good idea to include the copyright symbol, your name, and the year on each piece of work.

If you have your own home page, you can advertise your publications yourself, and even include an order form (and secure server) for people to buy your book with their credit card. Or you can display your snail mail address, and interested buyers can mail you their cheque. If your publisher is online, people can order direct using the Internet.

Another advantage for a writer is that the Internet is like a giant encyclopaedia. You can find out just about anything on it. For example, I was researching homelessness in relation to a collection of poetry I was working on. I found a lot of information and contacts just by typing the word `homelessness' in the space provided by the search engine.

There has been a lot of discussion about the Internet, and no-one can disagree with the fact that there is some unpleasant stuff out there. However, the same applies when you go into a book shop, a video store, or even a library. We will only find what we are looking for. My opinion is that there is a lot of good, interesting, and useful material. It would be a shame if we poets didn't grasp the opportunities that are waiting for us.

Take my advice: go for it!


Although Rita was born in Canada to Dutch parents, Tasmania has been her home since she was 13 years old. Since coming to Australia, Rita has trained and worked as a teacher, run a host farm, worked in a tearooms kitchen, managed a Community Centre, and operated a craft shop.

She now teaches adults part-time through T.A.F.E., but writing is her passion. She is married to Ian, a highschool art teacher, and has two children: John, who is 15, and Heather, who is 18. You can read more of Rita's fine literary works at her personal Web site Spindrift, and can reach her by email at
Would you like to see your work in Zn?




Copyright © 1998 Ted Warnell. All Rights Reserved