Literary Connections, Poetweet and Social Media

WordPress is a funny place. Imagine dropping your notebook, and a few words you jotted down suddenly wind up being published online. Or maybe you accidentally turned in your outline on Chaucer, rather than  your completed essay, but the professor gave you an A anyway.

WordPress is a wonderfully weird place.

Last night I accidentally hit the “publish” button instead of the “save draft” button and woke up this morning to find that several people had already “liked” my post. It had a snazzy title about poetry and literary connections on social media, and a body of text that was only a few words long. I realized that those enigmatic words were not unlike a tweet, and they seemed to imply something about the literary world being at odds with the world of celebrity.

That may be true, but it’s not really what my summary was about. When I wrote “celebrity vs. literary world,” those four words that I thought were just privately jotted down here to remind me where to start this post in the morning, what I meant was merely that despite the whining that many of us have done, myself included, that people do not read enough anymore, there are benefits to following literary magazines and poets rather than those boring celebrities of TV, big screen, stage and studio fame.

And perhaps one of the greatest benefits is accessibility. And by that I do not mean “easy-to-read.” (Of course, if you visit here often, you already know that I despise the idea that accessible equals simple). I simply meant to say that while I wish the literary world had a more popular place in modern culture than, say Duck Dynasty, one of the upsides to take advantage of is that the writers, publishers and editors are often people you have access to! You can tweet them and often they answer back!

How frequently this happens in the world of celebrity actors and boy bands I cannot say, but from what I hear it’s damn near impossible to get anyone’s attention in those huge forums, even if the  quality of writing on your Lady Ga Ga blog is truly excellent (I’m using my imagination here. Work with me).

But just this morning I got a tweet from twitter that a journal I was considering sending my work to actually decided to “follow” me! Probably they saw one of my tweets, responding to another blogger, or poet, or poetry editor. And that’s how it works.

This weekend I read a poem called “Growing Bears” in Poetry Magazine’s October issue by a brilliant young lady  named Hanna Gamble. I enthusiastically shared the poem; I think I replied to Poetry Foundation, on Twitter and later in the day Hannah actually replied back, thanking me for my compliment and saying that my words made her day.

Wow. This is what technology makes possible, beyond the sharing of political rants and cute kitten videos. I also got a note via SoundCloud today that my recording of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Thursday,” our first Thursday Love Poem feature here on the Dad Poet, was accepted in their Record a Poem Project.

What’s even more exciting is when someone like Poetry Foundation actually re-posts your recording on their own feed. My recording of Seamus Heaney’s poem “Song” was recently re-posted by them and I was ecstatic. Maybe it doesn’t take much for me, but just to be noticed for the art that I do, whether it be my recording or my writing, and to be appreciated by people I respect, well it’s a huge encouragement. And it keeps me pushing on to do even more, even better.

A few months back Frances Uku, a lovely young actress with a voice of a goddess, gave me the ultimate compliment of choosing to record one of my own poems on SoundCloud. I was stunned and honored.

Now just this last week when The Poetry Foundation shared Miss Uku’s reading of “Madam’s Calling Cards” by Langston Hughes via their Facebook feed, Frances replied with a gracious thank you, and mentioned a few of her favorite poets, including–you guessed it–yours truly. What? I thought, this amazing person just told the publishers of Poetry Magazine, the number one poetry publication in the country that I was a “living legend.”

I didn’t exactly faint, but I thought, holy hell! I need to keep submitting and finish gathering together those poems for the first-chap-book contests that are coming up here at the end of the year! If people I respect are going to say such lovely things about my work, I need to step up my game and make sure I live up to their compliments.

So is it just a name-dropping marketing game, you ask? Well, no. I hope that’s not all that it is. In fact, I’m sure it is more than that, though I have seen social media used as nothing but a shallow promotional tool plenty of times. But when you get past that snazzy veneer and actually communicate with other artists whose work you enjoy, it’s amazing how a simple thank you, or the occasional returned compliment can boost your confidence and encourage you in your own projects

My first experience with this social media phenomenon of getting feedback on my own work was when I posted a video response to Tom O’Bedlam of the SpokenVerse channel on YouTube. It was my reading of “Night Club” by Billy Collins, which I read via my laptop cam, on location in the restaurant bar where I was working at the time. O’Bedlam said simply, “Really good – I’m envious.” To me, that was like hearing feedback on my latest guitar rift from the rock star of all rock stars.

Response videos seem to have all disappeared on YouTube, probably because they were often misused as YouTubers posted numerous response videos just to be noticed. Well, ditching the practice was unnecessary on YouTube’s part, because all users can control the adding of response videos to their work. I think that it just stems from the fact that YouTube, like Facebook these days, in an effort to make profits, has chosen its advertisers over its users.

My favorites lately are SoundCloud and Twitter, though I only have a few followers thus far. As a fellow Tweeter once told me, “It’s all about who you follow.” And that seems true.  You’d be surprised at the attention that one response can get.

Okay, one more example, though I could go on and on. Last week The Review Review tweeted an inquiry about writers’ submission methods. I replied very briefly, and was surprised to find myself quoted in their subsequent article “Submission Styles of the Rich and the Famous.” Um. Yeah. Keep your sense of humor about you, and stop laughing–you are spitting coffee all over my keyboard now.

What’s more, my simple little tweeted response was picked up by Tammy at Bluestem, and included as one of her top three favorite responses to the question. And hey, look, another great online quarterly for me to enjoy! Thanks for the link!

So, be glad you don’t spend all of your time following the gossip magazines. Do good work, as Garrison Keillor says, and then share it. Respond to the work of others you appreciate. Don’t beg for views. Don’t plead for likes and followers. Just do what you do so well that when others see it, they cannot help but respect you. And what better way for them to see it than for you to comment on what they do?

And right now, in the poetry world, the community has never been more active or interconnected. Get involved on whatever level you feel comfortable, but it’s quite probable that there are others out there on your wavelength who will be happy to link up with you.

28 Comments Add yours

  1. slpmartin says:

    Well such events are very encouraging for the use of social media…but I must say your talent is perhaps the real factor here.


    1. You are very kind, Charles. Thank you! I have your book sitting here beside me, and I was wondering if it would be alright to use the recording I made for you guys to promote it. I could link to River’s video as well. What do you think?


  2. kittyb says:

    It’s all good…forward..


  3. John says:

    I enjoyed your unintentional post last night … knowing you well, I figured it was a slip of the mouse clicker, and that you weren’t engaging in some existential, or Zen experiment.

    Social media is a weird thing. It’s just another thing to worry “am I doing it right?” I mean, I’m socially awkward in person — now I have an entire internet world to worry about. 🙂

    I use Facebook as an easy way to share things … my blog posts, and, as you know, political memes… I am on Twitter, but, mostly as a way to announce new blog posts. And, I’m on Tumblr, which I actually really like — it’s like Facebook in that it’s easy to share, and better than Twitter, because one isn’t confined to 140 characters.

    Mostly, I’m finding that my blog is what I like best … one blog for everything. And, there’s more of a sense of community on WordPress, I think. I talk to more people on my blog, other bloggers, like you, that I’ve never met, than I talk to people I know well on Facebook…. that seems an awkward sentence, but I think you know what I mean.


    1. Haha, yes, I think I do know what you mean. And I feel that way too. I prefer the community through my blog most.

      But a couple of things about Twitter. It’s not in competition with what I do on the blog. It’s such a whole different animal that it cannot be. Partly because of that 140 character restriction, but for other reasons too, like why I use it.

      You see, Ploughshares, Poetry, Rattle, the Gettysburg review, and hundreds of smaller magazines are NOT following my blog. But I’d like to eventually get some of my poems printed in those magazines, so it’s been good for me, helpful to follow them, see what they are up to, get familiar with their style (I read from the ones I can, but obviously it’s not in my budget to read all of them), and get to see what sort of poems and articles they retweet or highlight. . .

      You follow where I’m going here? So as my friend Kristine (who responds here under Kitty or K or many other names lol) was right a while back when I was considering joining Twitter, but really I didn’t know how to do whatever it was you did on it. She said, “On Twitter it’s all about who you follow.”

      It seems like it’s about who follows you, but not really. That comes with time, but your reputation is partly built not just on what you say, but on what you retweet, and on who you follow. Your own followers (I can only hope because I have less than 50 so far) will come with time.

      It’s not a place to be pretentious. I promote my blog posts there too, but I don’t engage in a lot of posting of “wise” sounding aphorisms. I haven’t seen those go over so well when others do it.

      Mostly I’ve just followed and watched, shared when I had something really good to say, or replied to a tweet here and there, maybe about an article or a poem that really resonated with me.

      There is something about that 140 character limit too that keeps me honest. I’m not sure if I can explain it, but I can do a lot of bullshitting on Facebook and the blog. I mean, I try not to. Being authentic is very important to me, but being authentic in less than 141 characters is more of a challenge. And being a poet, I confess I work best in the short form. Long form puts me in danger of babbling on. My short stories turn into novellas, and my novellas turn into a series of novels. . .

      So while Twitter doesn’t compete with the blog, I am finding in these couple of months there that it not merely helps me promote the blog, but it helps me get out there and see at least snapshots of what publications and people I respect are doing. And when I can I read more in depth. And in doing so, and communicating with those people (tweeting them, etc) I gain some experience and some respect myself.

      So that’s how I think (in my humble opinion 🙂 Twitter should be, or can best be utilized.

      Thank you so much, John for all your kind encouragement and participation on these pages. You have no idea how much I am inspired by you.


    2. Oh and thanks for understanding the mistaken post! 🙂


  4. Wonderful post, David. You should check out “The Bridge,” which is being build together by Brooklyn Poets. I just wrote about their Indiegogo campaign on my (WordPress-based) blog:

    The Bridge will be a social network for poets wherever they live — even those who live in such a beautiful, remote part of the world as you do. (I used to work for The Nature Conservancy in Pennsylvania and have spent a fair amount of time up in your neck of Penn’s Woods.)

    Glad to find you (via Don Share’s retweet of your post), and look forward to reading your work.


    1. I was happily surprised by that retweet of Don Share’s, and by your subsequent RT and comments. I hadn’t intended to create another example to encourage others to interact, but here it is. Thank you.

      I do love the beauty of this area, “four hours from anywhere.” I’m glad you had some time here. I’m intrigued by the Bridge and encouraged by what such work portends. For some time I’ve thought that the success of the apparent poet’s track (mfa to poetry teaching job, to more publication. . . ) might mean tough times for my own publishing dreams, not having, or desiring that same resume.

      Projects like the one going on in Brooklyn gives a guy some hope and encouragement that there are many paths. Thanks for contacting me, and leading me to your own good blog. I too look forward to reading more of you.


  5. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

    This is great, David. I often feel very behind the times when it comes to engaging with other poets and artists through social media. You are a good lead to follow.

    Maybe today this is one of the best things we have going for us, all of us scattered “artists.” I certainly would love to have a group around me to connect with and to learn from but I also see how I can have this from great distances as well. It might not be quite the same thing but it certainly is something.

    I am no longer quite the neo-luddite I was such a short time ago. Keep it up, man. I love what you are doing and I mean it when I say that it is both inspiring and helpful.


  6. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

    Reblogged this on The Sand County and commented:
    David is teaching me many things. This post is helping me learn how to connect with other writers in new ways.


    1. Did I mention, Jeremy, how honored I am by your replies and the reblog? And yes, we might not all meet at Oxford’s Eagle and Child Pub, or the New York School’s White Horse Tavern, but we scattered artists can dish around the twitter bar, or the WordPress Inn. Whatever works! So glad to share a pint with you, Jeremy, any time.


    2. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

      Maybe we will sit down for a pint someday, David? You never know. When we do I’m buying. 🙂


    3. I’m not going to fight you on that. And I hope we do.


  7. MikeW says:

    Your enthusiasm and professional dedication to the writing arts shows here on the blog. Glad to have found this via Jeremy Marks’ site.


    1. Why, thank you, Mike. What a gracious compliment. I thank Jeremy for introducing me to you. I’m enjoying your health blog right now and have a sudden craving to try sea beans. I am so glad you stopped by.


  8. jpbtheblog says:

    Thanks for the pingback! Greatly appreciated!


  9. angryricky says:

    I think the part I like best here is that you’re honest about enjoying praise. Growing up where I did, praise is sparse and generally disavowed by the receiving party. I also like that you respond to it by striving to deserve it. (I think you already do a good job of that, btw.)


    1. I appreciate that insight, Ricky. I guess I have my mother to thank. Or maybe both of my parents. Mom was big on praise, and father especially was big on making sure you earned it. “No such thing as a free lunch” was the kind of work ethic he taught. Our family was a weird mix of exaggerated, glorious stories, and hard working authenticity. I thank you so much for your kind compliments, my friend.


  10. That’s great news, David.

    And yes, you DO need to submit more often.


    1. I’m working on it! Honest. 🙂


    2. I have several windows of duotrope open right now, and a folder full of poems. 🙂 I’m also trying to get myself to the point where I am submitting not to deadlines, but to journals (well ahead of deadlines). Also considering a few chapbook contests for the end of the year. Which means I have only two months to compile a possible manuscript! Lots to do.


    3. Then why are you wasting time chatting to me? Get on with it!


    4. It’s never a waste, dear. But okay, I’m gone! x


  11. Wow! I loved the poem and Frances’ reading of it. I just shared on Twitter. I also loved this whole post–so much going on here. It is amazing the way social media connects to you to others in so many surprising ways! I had a similar incident. A composer emailed me to say he had set one of my poems he’d found on my blog to music. I listened to it and was blown away–it was astonishing. I feel for all the angst that is going on in the publishing world as it morphs from one thing to another, that we are actually truly blessed to be living at a time when we can share our thoughts so easily with others and get almost instant responses and appreciation, early in the morning or during the wee hours at night and from people across the globe. Amazing! I found this BTW via Jeremy’s reblog. It say in my inbox awaiting a response several weeks now, and I finally opened it up to my great pleasure.


    1. Oh, thank you so much, Deborah for that. Way to brighten my evening. You make some really excellent points about the uncertainty of thenpublishing world. These connections are such boosts, aren’t they? Speaking of connections, I love Jeremy’s work, and I’m honored you got here through his blog. Thank you!


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