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Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Facebook Poets?

The Times has run an impressive article, singling out a few (ten) younger British poets, for attention. As I recently included or mentioned several of these same poets in my Manhattan Review section, such as James Byrne, Joe Dunthorne, Luke Kennard, and Emily Berry, I can only concur, and in fact, welcome such a focus on them. However, I cannot help but feel there is something a tad disingenuous about the "Facebook poets" tag that has been applied here. Not by the poets themselves, I hasted to add. As with "The Movement" tag, this is a media label.

I am the co-founder of the original "Poetry" group at Facebook, with over 6,000 members - and I can tell you, while poetry circulates via that leviathan, it does so at a snail's pace; few real poets post work online. Facebook mostly reps mediocre poetry; it is superb for advertising events, magazines, contests, etc. - and in that way only is this "generation" of under 35-year-olds shaped poetically by that networking service.

Primarily, the young British poets are formed by the same literary and personal forces that have shaped poetry in England since at least 1799 - because, of all the arts, poetry is the least likely to be immediately shaped or altered by technology (it requires simply a writing instrument and paper, or even, simply a memory).

However, few people have been as evangelical as myself since 2003, in advocating the use of e-books, blogs, websites, etc., to promote and encourage poets to reach new audiences, and each other, online. In the sense that the Internet breaks down barriers, and opens poets to new sources and alliances, these younger poets are perhaps differently-wired. But not totally wired.
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