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Jul/Aug 2005 Book Reviews

Five Quick and Dirty Lit Site Reviews

by Scott Malby


Remark Ezine

Remark Ezine is easy to stereotype but hard to define. There are some ezines that develop a distinctive personality and voice of their own. Remark is such an ezine and Bukowski is its god. This ezine is low on polish but remarkable when it comes to ideas and observations. It is edgy, in your face, tart, slightly degenerate and foul mouthed: a pugnaciously wild free-for-all ride where you never know who or what you're going to land on top of. Well chosen words aren't the important thing, the message is. It's a quick sort of read. You don't have to think too hard. Pithy, counter-culture ruminations are Remark's stock in trade. At its best Remark makes you think, laugh and cringe at the same time. There is always something relevant to find. Remark specializes in making the unexpected a frequent occurrence. This ezine has developed quite a cult following by reportedly not caring (tongue in cheek) whether it makes a name for itself or not. It has. The editor is now Kathleen Paul-Flanagan. She appears to be doing very well at carrying on the ezine's established tone and feel.

Jacket Magazine

Based out of Australia and edited by John Tranter, Jacket Magazine is an ezine where the academic and establishment "beat" meet. It represents one of the most influential English speaking poetry sites in cyberspace. My impression is that the site is about reputations. A sort of last hurrah for those who were involved in one poetry clique or another. It makes for fascinating reading but shows a penchant for the linguistically esoteric. The site is confusing at first, but you soon get used to it. It's organized like an convoluted maze or concrete word poem but is well worth the effort of exploring. What does it provide? Essays primarily. Many of the poets and writers profiled are familiar and deserve retrospective notice. This is a site for poets and those who make a living critiquing the work of poets. You can't help but benefit from much of its content. But be warned. Tranter is an idiosyncratic poet and his site reflects his taste. One gets the impression that those doing the writing about the poets profiled either know Tranter personally or are those he's heard about through their reputation. This is not a criticism but a guide regarding one way to make a poetry related site both unique, interesting and influential. Don't bother to submit to Jacket Magazine. Wait till you're invited.

The Poetry Kit

The Poetry Kit is a contemporary, entertaining and continually updated resource that is billed as "A Poetry Landmark of Britain." I wouldn't put it in the class of an early Shakespeare folio, Chaucer edition or for that matter, Tinturn Abby, but it does manage to almost meet its rather heady expectations. It is a well organized site at which a great deal of information regarding current internet publishing can be found. The Poetry Kit lists authors, calls for material, world poetry events, workshops etc. Of course, there is a British emphasis when it comes to grants and fellowships, but pretty much everything else is world wide in scope. It would be impossible for any one ezine to meet the goals that The Poetry Kit's editor, Jim Bennett, has set for himself, but you have to give him credit and a great deal of respect for the effort. Of special note are the links to other journals. Poetry Kit provides a useable and valuable starting point for those interested in the current world of internet poetry publishing.

poets.org

Poets.org is sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. The Academy of American Poets is one of the few poetry organizations in this country able to make a reputation simply by including the poet on its online site. Poets.org is smart, highly polished, well organized, and contains a dazzling amount of information regarding American poets and poetry. It is also totally establishment, somewhat boring and the cornerstone of respectable American poetry publishing on the internet. You don't have to be dead in order to be profiled by Poets.org, but it helps. The site is amazingly interactive. There is a chat room and a place to store your own notes. I repeatedly return to Poets.org when I need quick information about a well-established American poet. The only problem is that upon entering the site you get the feeling you need to take your shoes off at the door. They are somewhat arbitrary about who they include and don't. When queried about their criteria for inclusion, they were rather vague. While the Academy of American Poets is not immune from controversy, their Poets.org site generally is. Arguably, it is the best of its kind, whatever that kind is. It is significantly unique.

Mudlark

I've been reading Mudlark for some years and have yet to find the key regarding their editorial decisions. The editor, Mr. William Slaughter, has a soft gig with the Department of English, University of North Florida. I wonder if this fine ezine counts for him regarding the publish or perish dilemma? As an editor he moves in and out of the Pound-Olson continuum, showcasing sometimes brilliant and always adequate work. Yet, I have seldom experienced in Mudlark the urgency of expression that a true poem requires. Mudlark is intuitively academic and seldom risk taking. It suspiciously relies on the accoutrements of art rather than art itself. Why then do I keep reading it? For all its faults, Mudlark still represents one of the most respected poetry sites in cyberspace.

 

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