Aaron Belz’ Poetics of Distraction: A technologically hip way to publish our work. How cool is that?

Aaron Belz is a modern man of letters, a university teacher, poet,reviewer, essayist, and organizer of St. Louis’ Observable Readings. Through Aaron I met the Nigerian poet Obi Nwakanma who was a touchstone for me at last week’s Soyinka Symposium in Carbondale.

Aaron Belz’ “gravely hilarious” poems, as Denise Duhamel describes them, in “The Bird Hoverer” are worth a read. Even more, I wish for you to hear him read in person, as his drollery is fit for an 18th century chocolate house. Perhaps he’ll make a CD for us, one of these soon days! Aaron was born in 1971 in Iowa City, but now lives in St. Louis, now, where he has hosted the Observable Reading series since fall of 2003, now in its fifth season. Observable Readings is, “not a reading group, exactly, but a reading series that showcases poets from all over the country,” he explains.

He’s in the next generation younger than myself and has innovative ideas on the place of poetry in society. I love that he writes on poetry for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. You can get links for his newspaper articles, essays, reviews, and new poems here:

—poems: http://meaningless.com
—website: belz.net
—blog: http://belz.wordpress.com
—observable readings, 2007-08: http://observable.org

And, now….read his idea on how to publish poetry through WEBCLIPS! I signed up on Gmail so I always know when a new poem of his goes up. You can, too. Read on! –JGR


The Poetics of Distraction: Publishing Poetry through Webclips
by Aaron Belz
copyright 2008

Ah yes. No one reads poetry anymore, and that’s partly because no one reads anymore. We’re too caught up!

Everything’s happening at once: email, Quickbooks, a few important clicks around the web, then off to pick up the kids or drop off some important documents, packages, run a couple of timely errands. Eat out, maybe. Then at night we must watch “Lost,” and after that, who has energy? Our heads a-buzz with the day’s barrage of media, we fall asleep at last.

Whether that describes your life or not, you know you’re caught up. It’s 2008. If poetry isn’t on your iPod, TV, or the web it probably isn’t gonna happen for you. That’s why it’s important for 21st century poets to participate in the blogosphere and (and!) get on Facebook, MySpace, or both.

Social networking has a lot of us addicted to clicking around, checking out pics and profiles, and such. Poetry needs to be there too if it’s going to be read.

Hence my (maybe not original) idea to supplement blog-publishing with Gmail webclips—which feed info to the little ticker of links that appears at the top of your Gmail console (if you use Gmail), right alongside “sponsored links” and news headlines. Gmail comes pre-set with a number of webclips that the Gmail guys think you’ll like.

But what if you don’t?

Go to your “settings” (upper right hand corner), click on “web clips” and start deleting the ones you don’t want. Then, ADD a few. POETRY links. Like mine, belz.wordpress.com—a new poem title every day or two will appear in the mix of sponsored links and other noise in that little ticker at the top.

It’s really just RSS feeds on steroids for the Gmail generation. I called it the “poetics of distraction,” and Janet liked that, so here you go. Try it out! If not with my blog, with Janet’s or someone else’s you like. Might as well sprinkle some good stuff into the other junk that appears on your screen.

Myself, I don’t really use Gmail, so I’m looking for other ways to RSS feed myself some good new literature while I’m doing my daily correspondence. AIM needs something like this. Maybe iChat does, too. Whatever the case, it’s encouraging that users have some control over what they happen to read, and what they accidentally look at between emails. We can adjust the settings and make life more bearable.

William Carlos Williams’ poem “To Elsie” ends with the famous lines, “No one/ to witness / and adjust, no one to drive the car.”

Williams’ lines are prescient. But now that information technology is helping us confront one of the inherent problems of modern life, let’s take advantage of it.

To your Gmail!

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