Impressions of Poetry on the Internet Ryan Gleason Essay

person_pin Impressions of Poetry on the Internet

by Ryan Gleason

Published in Issue No. 167 ~ April, 2011
Poetry meets Internet at a bar.  Internet offers Poetry a drink from under the table, Internet’s own flask.  It says, “Things are too expensive here. So go on, have a healthy nip.”  Poetry doesn’t want to disagree with company and gulps down a few doses of the stuff.  A wildfire of more than drunk scorches Poetry’s insides.  It gets up from the table and stumbles around; a mess of gestures and slurred memories making too many attempts to just steady itself.  Nothing seems to work, there’s some burping now, some wheezing. Poetry lets out a meaningful cackle at some drips of beer rolling down someone’s pint glass, forming a small puddle on their table.  Poetry feels the bar become dazzlingly fast and new.  Internet glances at its flask, chuckles, sighs, takes another tilt and mumbles, “Yer welcome.”

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I have become yet another baby bird on the power line that is Twitter. The whole chirping, squawking, whistling chatter of all this tweeting has seized me. I want a song to call my own, I want droves of beady little bird eyes rolling over my words for a moment. Just give me a slice of your impossible attention. Everyone will see how I have learned restraint, minimalism, compression. That’s me, all so small. I’ll pummel you in three words. The force of my never-before-seen hashtags alone will smash your cellphone all over the curb and leave you jonesing to get back online at any cost. You, stinking of teh net, desperate to read an update, watch a digit change, find one more tag. There’s insistence everywhere now, waves lapping and laughing over the fraud that was memory. A rhythm you can’t trace, no discernible patterns.  Even if you claim to recollect, nowhere to really jot down what you’re claiming. Sure you can try to type something down, but we angry young birds are gonna shit all over it. Our feeding, our cawing, this crisscross of birds grasping power lines, singing the songs of now-not-then; we’re gonna make you a fellow user.

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Now Poetry isn’t feeling so hot. Internet’s swig made everything hysterically powerful. The bartender’s pause, gruff stare, wipe down the counter routine: a riot. The middle-aged women pushing their men aside so they can send some darts deep into the pocked up wall: even funnier. Young people turning pool cues, menus, empties, anything they can get their hands on into play weapons and genitals.  All of it possessing a sexy sheen that Poetry swears it’s seen before, even written about at some point. But Poetry’s sticky sheen turns to a hot, smothering sweat in a snap. Face covered in that vibrating gossamer of sick, Poetry takes three dramatic, wobbly strides to the bathroom door, slides on its knees, and projectiles a chunky yet seamless corona around the toilet’s rim. Internet looms behind Poetry, holds the door to the stall open, spits on the ground and says, “We’re going back to my place.”

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I also have a blog. No, I’m not a fucking consistent poster. What do I look like? I have to expend far too much energy making sure everyone else is being productive online. This isn’t a creator’s game, this is micro management! Of course I rant! What good would a blog do me otherwise? I wait till I feel like I am completely current with everyone I care about online, until I can sense the dry spittle in their mouths and in mine, all of us waiting for that unseen next. Then I just rant rant rant, it only takes a few minutes of key punching and then I can start knocking on the doors; pinning notices around the village. Today I decree this! Tomorrow I decree that! My blog has a black background and white letters. I don’t link much and I don’t upload.  This is my pamphlet. If you want to read my blog, understand you are reading a non-blog. This is not my diary, I never needed that. When the Internet becomes a language of media: gifs, bmps, jpgs, flashes, javas, booms, then a blog like mine, all made up of words, is going to be priceless. Imagine what the dig site will look like. Imagine what this artifact, this scroll of words: “MY BLOG” will look like. A jumble of so many earnest and forgotten symbols, one letter after another forming words- no, sentences- that will shrink the eyes of any onlooker, will choke their throats, and turn healthy brain to rot.

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Internet manages to fluidly shoulder Poetry, pull the keys out of its pocket, open up the apartment, and plop its guest down on the couch. The swiftness is lost on Poetry, who is blathering out chunks of sounds and phrases. Possibly stuttering through some quip or maxim, eyes floating in and out of focus, until it lets out a burp that sounds like breaking metal. Poetry isn’t sure where it is or what it’s looking at. A blur of Internet appears to be rustling around in the corner. The walls are shifting on Poetry, perfectly neat squares momentarily pop up and get replaced. Puppies with vibrating fur yip and somersault and then vanish, kids fly on and off of skateboards, their knees and elbows budding with blood, which get pasted over by a chain reaction of women and men’s orgasms, face after face scrunched, puckered in forgettable joy. Poetry can’t bear the wall any longer, trains its eyes to the ground and notices that the floor is filled with mounds of pure stuff. Stacks of credit cards and money, bags of food, clothing, gadgets, trinkets, everything’s everything. All the piles toppling and rebuilding themselves, the floor constantly shifting. Poetry feels paralyzed, unsure of itself. It feebly cries for Internet, reaches out looking for a hand to pull it off the couch, to slap it sober. Internet grasps Poetry, lugs it upright, the two standing face to face, holding hands. Poetry glimpses something in Internet’s other hand, tries to say something about it. Internet grins and says, “Now we’re gonna have some fun, you and I.”

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I review your poetry on this website. Make it appear or disappear. And it’s the most daunting and ruthless part of working for Pif. Reading all these poems is like licking all the crumbs off of a plate, noticing more crumbs, and then licking the plate some more. A horrifying meal for an editor such as myself. See, there was a time when I thought poetry could be determined, classified, maybe even honored. It was called college and, for the most part, it had no resemblance to the Internet and its limitless poesy. Our incoming submissions list is constantly drenched by a poetry torrent, and we editors begrudgingly wade through it, unsure of ourselves, wary of all that could be lurking in such poetic depths. Anaconda-like sentences wrapping around line after line of a poem, eager to strangle flimsy editors.  Howls and moans of outrageous emotion, unending voices circling, closing in, until everything you read resembles a confessional, and you, you’re just another drunken priest of madness, the sole operator for purgatory’s phone booth. Rhyme, couplet, repetition, metonymy, they now mean nothing to me. It’s the Internet! Poetry is the scripture in the temple! Broken links scattered all over the altar, slideshows raging like stained glass windows, uploads of new poems bursting out of thin air, scorching your eyes and retreating to the pews. I review, reject, or accept Internet poems.

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Poetry realizes that Internet is holding a cord, a USB cord. Poetry recognizes the three letters due to the sheer popularity of the cord but that’s about all it knows. By the time it makes this faint identification, Internet has firmly grasped Poetry’s hand. Menace twitches all over Internet’s face like a web of hairline cracks. It strikes with the cord, plunging one of the rectangular ends of the USB deep into Poetry’s arm. Poetry, woozy from all the stimulation and booze, winces a little and then just stares deeply into Internet’s smile. Poetry’s lush red blood wets the USB cord, streams down the arm, drips across the manic floor. Internet, still holding fast to the cord, rips off its shirt with one hard yank. Internet’s chest is a dazzling texture of layers at varying heights, like miniature buildings or pistons. A chest made of tiny pins, crackling jacks, neon letters and numbers, raging fans spewing hot air, and surge after surge of electronic noises and pulses of light. Poetry’s arm is covered in blood. It leans closer to Internet and just drools all over the chest. The drool sizzles until puffs of smoke cloud out Poetry’s face, reeking of fried electricity. Internet makes one final motion, plugging the other end of the USB into the socket that serves as its left nipple. Instantaneously, two green dots streak through the thick cloud around Poetry’s head, its new eyes. The bleeding lets up. Poetry’s green dots intensify, piercing the cloud to pieces and revealing its new face. Rigid and sober, its head rotates around the room, absorbs all of the surroundings. Internet laughs, so Poetry laughs. Internet motions, so Poetry motions. And at once, a new word is spoken out of both mouths. Something unheard of, unrecognized until now. Poetry and Internet speaking- loudly, plainly.

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Ryan Gleason is a literary editor at Pif Magazine. He can be found reading and writing in a Seattle puddle or at ryan.gleason@pifmagazine.com.
  • Ryan, Wow! Thanks for taking the time to share with one of the “Old Guard”. Your efforts remind me of that biblical adage: Cast your bread upon the water. We have no other choice but to cast our bread upon the waters of our own times. Well Done!