There’ll come a time when we define culture as post internet and pre internet. Whereas pre internet poets would be published by radical paper presses and promoted by
leaflets, the post internet poets are published online-only or online-to-book and promoted by Facebook or MySpace. Many established promoters in England – of literature
festivals publishers and events etc – are from pre internet age (or on the cusp) and
therefore there is a subtle not-so-subtle gap between the post internet poets and the pre.
In terms of quality the pre internet poets received validation from the presses who would seek information on new poets from established, poets, peers and press, whereas
the post internet poets seek validation from their peers through facebook and myspace. But quality is compromised in the mutuality that the survival of face book depends on. If you put this inline with the rise and rise of Slam (slum) poetry events what you have is a spectacular cultural car crash .
“I’ll be a well dressed emperor if you say so, via my facebook, and if you say so on your facebook then you too can be a well dressed emperor on my face book”. The fact that none of the Emperors are wearing clothes is no longer the issue. A “name” can so quickly feel established through this exchange that poets feel that they have “arrived” before in fact they have left anywhere. Prophets of their own hype. It’s a set up. Book em danny!
Not that pre internet was a golden era of unblemished integrity and quality. In the
seventies you couldn’t go out at night without tripping over a dub poet. And in the eighties you couldn’t go for a drink without being assaulted by a “rant poet”. I can count on one hand the poets of those days that remain. Post internet has released a similar flood of mediocrity; poets who stand upon stage like rabbits caught in the heady headlights of
popular culture. It’s feeble need for attention is the sensation of autumn leaves attempting to wrestle the me to the floor.
But the truth will out. Those who think poetry is a conduit to greater things will leave poetry behind as they pursue the possibility of higher sales in novels or short stories. Most will disappear up their own plot lines and diminishing publishing opportunities or sales figures. Those who want to go into comedy will do so leaving barely audible chuckles in their wake. Those who go into drama and television will find themselves on the phone to their agents, alot. Those who go into arts administration will either become great conduits for
creativity or bitter little empire builders like mini wizards of oz. More likely, in my experience, the latter. I have seen it done time and again. They wait for poetry to be popular again where they might pull out those same pieces of paper and declare dismissively “yeah I used to be a poet”. Poetry is not a conduit to greater things. It is the greatest thing.