6 September 2001


Well, I'll tell you kids, I used to think I was the oldest surviving newspoet, until, on a tip from a friend, I found myself in a meeting of recovering newspoets. That's right.

It was kind of thrilling. They made everybody speak, and when you spoke, you had to say your name and admit you were a newspoet. I got kind of choked up. I stammered when I finally said the words "My name is... Dirk Stratton and I'm a newspoet."

The crowd was diverse. All these people had been newspoets and let it take over their lives. There were labor history students, open-source evangelists, organic farmers, and, perhaps not surprisingly, even a few people in their sixties, including two former members of the underrated British rock band the Beatles.

"Thanks to Newspoetry," I said, "I now write in soundbites." There came a murmur of understanding. "You always think you can control it, but you can't control the internet, you can only become dependent on it. It is a web, and you put yourself in its hands. You understand that you will never be able to write poetry the way normal people do, you admit that you have a problem." People started snapping their fingers in the air.

"But the world is filled with other kinds of writing. And it is possible that you will come to enjoy spending an evening with the book Dark Alliance, the masterful work of journalism that exposed connections between the Iran-Contra scandal and the L.A. crack epidemic of the 1980s. Or perhaps you will savor 365 days, an anthology of one short story a day for the year 1934, collected by writer-activist Kay Boyle. For lonely periods, you can even try to read Louis Zukofsky's book-length poem A. There really is a lot of stuff to read when you aren't trying to write a poem a day. And though there will come times when you are afraid to leave your house for fear of encountering the sports section of the Daily Illini blowing down a deserted sidewalk, and suddenly finding yourself in a nearby park driven to write a backwards acrostic about the Seattle Sonics, you will learn to get by, and your life, for all this, will not be so much worse than that of, say, former poet laurate Robert Pinsky's."

It was a very warm moment. A few people clapped. Then we drank lots of instant coffee and ate psilocybin.

Newspoetry at Spineless Books