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.