News: The Fifth Anniversary Edition
“If you’re reading this bright page, then you are a screen reader too. We may still love and collect books, but we’ve embraced a new technology that has proven miraculous for poets. Nowadays we publish in new ways and reach exponentially wider audiences than we did during the Gutenberg epoch.”
That is a quote from my very first editorial note in 2006. At that time, I felt that only a few online poetry journals were really exceptional, and those were often affiliated with universities. I was determined to create an online journal that would prove that independent online publishing could be excellent online publishing. Umbrella would have a clear mission, stringent selection criteria, and a page design that would showcase each poet in the best light.
I was not alone with these ambitions. It soon became clear that Umbrella was part of a megatrend. Online poetry journals have proliferated in the last five years, and many of them are fine journals indeed.
They are fine and they are free. In the November 27, 2011 issue of The New York Times Book Review, Jeffrey Rosen reviews a book by Robert Levine, Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back. The book’s main point is that fee-free online venues such as YouTube and The Huffington Post foster a situation that “is much better for tech companies and distributors than for cultural creators and producers.” That is to say, the actual creators—the writers, actors, musicians—aren’t getting their fair share. I’m sure that’s true and also pretty sure that, as a consequence, more and more original content will be locked behind paywalls.
If that doesn’t happen, then, in Rosen’s paraphrase of Levine’s thesis, “the Internet will increasingly become an artistic wasteland dominated by amateurs—a world where music, TV and journalism are virtually free and where all of us get what we pay for.”
But let us not underestimate the amateur!—someone who does something for love rather than profit, and who, in fact, may do it as well, or better, than the so-called professionals. Poetry, for a myriad of reasons, is off the profit grid anyway. You don’t make a living writing it. You don’t make much of a living publishing it, even in print. It is part of what is called the gift economy. We share our poems as older agrarian cultures shared food, and, like them, we do so in a climate of abundance. I’m just glad I can feast—for free—on the wonderful poetry I find online every day.
So here again, for you, my readers, Umbrella, back from a short hiatus, back better (I hope) than ever, and set before you for your delectation.
Carmine Street Metrics
Of course, I had no real assurance that Umbrella would attract good poets and be viable in the long run. Neither did the founders of New York City’s Modern Metrics group when they “hung up” their own “shingle.” But people did notice, the series morphed and grew, and Carmine Street Metrics was the result.
It is your editor’s pleasure to publish this showcase of poets, all of whom have been featured readers for CSM. The poems will, I hope, enchant you, and the prose introduction and epilogue of reminiscences will, I trust, provide a sense of the liveliness, camaraderie, and zeal behind the enterprise.
Speaking personally now—CSM got me on stage for the first time in decades. I can’t blame fear or shyness for my old reluctance to step behind a microphone, though anything new will be fearsome at first. I preferred to read poetry quietly, hearing the words in my mind but not from a stage or even a recording. I had a sense of privacy about the pursuit of poetry, intimacy, contemplativeness. I still do—but I’ve learned to enjoy the exuberance and immediacy of staged readings, and even to take some pleasure in bringing my own work forth that way. This was a life-changer, and I’m indebted to the Carmine Street Metrics gang for making me see the light by coaxing me under the light.
The Orsorum Poets
The CSM feature was, of course, an Umbrella invitational—but many fine poems came over the transom in the usual way. To honor the Orsorum poets, your editor has composed a little cento in their honor; each line is a replicate of a line from one of their poems.
A Little Winter Cento
Call for Submissions
The next release of Umbrella, Spring-Summer 2012, goes live May 15. The reading period opens on February 10 and closes April 15; please check the guidelines after February 10 for more specific information. Tilt-a-Whirl continues to read on an ongoing basis and seeks poems written in repeating forms only. Please read the journal for more information on the type of poems sought. Bumbershoot remains on hiatus.
Umbrella’s 2011 Award Nominations
Best of the Net