A History by William

history updated 2014



Begun in 1995 by William Gillespie as a solo printed broadside, Newspoetry became the website, launched 1 January 1999, which accepted contributions from myriad authors, and published an oiriginal poem a day about events in the news through the end of 2002. William Gillespie served as site editor for 1999, and was succeeded by Joe Futrelle from 2000-2002. This archive collects the ongoing Newspoetry of William Gillespie.

(Although the word “Newspoetry" was coined by William Gillespie, he has since discovered two instances of plagiarism by anticipation and one of plagiarism by plagiarism. "Newspoetry" was jotted into a notebook by Dirk Stratton in 1991, was used by Tuli Kupferberg around 1971as a title of two newsprint poetry zines [in the proper spirit of protest], and was recently appropriated by NPR [without it]).

Similar efforts, often higher profile but politically toothless (David Lehman, NPR), come and go, and Newspoetry crawls on, ignored, suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous bullshit.


Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2001 04:29:58 -0500
From: jfagan
Reply-To: Literature in the new media ecology
Subject: Newspoetry night

Friday night at the newspoetry gig....

It was definitely worth taking a work night off to attend this thing. The participating "newspoets" have created their own media form via the Internet. They've taken a primarily passive everyday thing like reading the news and responded by turning news stories and events into an entertaining and informative literary excursion.

There were about eight "poets" reading a few of the poems they've submitted to, and for the most part, their passages were satirical exposes of the news industry. In one reading for example, Joseph Futrelle (editor-in-chief of the newspoetry site) took a story from the New York Times, rearranged the names, and created a hilarious poem-story titled "Ban on Execution of Texas Governor is Vetoed by Retarded."

Anne Bargar's "Rasputin Named to Head Special Presidential Committee on Miscellaneous Faith-Based Initiatives," is another sample of the satire and wit most of these poets presented to the small Friday night crowd. I'd have to say, however, my favorite poet of the night, who "rapped" the first poem he read and whose originality was truly astounding, was William Gillespie, founder of the site and its original editor-in-chief. Bring up the site and read some of his stuff--you'll see what I mean.


Newspoetry is:

1. an alternative online news source where credible journalism is secondary to interesting writing

2. a documentary record of the turn of the American millennium

3. necessary to get myself to read the newspaper.

I coined the term “Newspoetry” in December 1995 (or so I thought*) when I made it my New Year’s resolution to write a poem a day about events in the news in 1996. I was mostly successful, although real life pressures caused me to take off the months of July, October, and December. For those other nine months, though, I managed to write a poem a day. I almost never shared these poems with friends, in fact I didn't tell very many people what I was up to. Instead, I would print out three copies of the poem on any given day and tape them anonymously to walls at Illinois State University, tape them inside men's room stalls (despite my concern with gender bias, I chose not to tape them up inside women's restrooms), or slip them into copies of the News-Gazette in newspaper machines. I thought that if someone who would ordinarily steer clear of anything called political or poetry found a political poem in their newspaper or in a public library or restroom, they might be confused enough to read it and think about it. After all, they weren't being put on the spot: in fact there was no way they could respond except by taking the poem and complaining about it to other people.

I was also annoyed by poets who claimed their opaque, insensible, academic work was politically radical when it was geared toward an inherently elitist readership. I wanted a poetry focused on readers rather than the writer. Newspoetry was a solution to that problem for a few reasons. The writing was anonymous (it is illegal, after all, to put poems inside the News-Gazette, and it would have been imprudent to sign them; furthermore, to put my name on it would shift focus back from reader to writer, to the extent that any signed artwork is an advertisement for the artist who created it). The writing was was also furiously anachronistic and unpublishable. In addition to breaking the rules of poetry and being, in general, hastily-written, they were in no way timeless classics. They were, in fact, instantly dated and their relevance was, for the most part, limited to the week in which they were written. Finally, most of the poems were not about me or my experiences. The ones written in the first person were still about my observations of other people and events. They were not lyrical. Another consideration was complaints from friends on the left who were concerned with events in the news, but couldn't stand the newspaper. Was there a way of saving the news from the style in which it was written?

After 1996, while I had for the most part stopped writing Newspoems, the momentum of the process continued and was given focus by my collaborative radio show on WEFT Eclectic Seizure. Eclectic Seizure was, at that time, in a state of political instability, and so Danielle Chynoweth and I rose up and seized the first fifteen minutes of Eclectic Seizure in a bloodless coup and created a news program called "All the News that Fits to Sing." On this show, we would perform art based on the weeks political events, locally, nationally, and internationally. We had wanted to, and still want to, have our own Newspoetry show on WEFT, but over the 90's WEFT had become resistant to new programming ideas.

In 1998, Danielle went to New York and a new generation of friends moved into Eclectic Seizure. I went back to writing Newspoetry to be distributed anonymously, this time at the University of Illinois, and I created a one-page newspaper called The Daily Poem. Formatting improved somewhat because personal computers had improved somewhat. This time I shared the Daily Poem with friends and colleagues and received a fair amount of encouragement. The newspaper The Octopus, even though they have never responded to any of the writing I've submitted to them over the years using my real name, actually printed one of these poems under the pseudonym "Q. Synopsis."

This was the year that Scott and Dirk and I began work on the Unknown, and also the year that Sigfried Gold began On The Job Consulting. I began to learn how to build websites and realized their potential as an artistic medium. Specifically, websites weren't yet regulated by effective laws against plagiarism and slander, they could be easily updated daily, and, as a distribution medium, the internet is unrivaled. The only thing that reaches a larger audience than the Internet is the Moon.

So, for 1999, I decided I would reboot myNew Year’s resolution from 1996, and write a poem a day about events in the news, and post them on the Internet. This way I felt I could succeed, because if I missed a single day, I imagined, the whole world would know. I spent Christmas break coding fiercely, building the architecture of the site I would, over the coming year, populate with poems.

At the time, I solicited participation from friends, but had underestimated what kind of response I'd get. Already, by New Year’s Day, I received a poem over email from Dirk Stratton.

By the end of the first week of January I had received two poems from Dirk, two from Joe Futrelle, and Scott Rettberg even wrote a sonnet. Newspoetry was out of the starting gate and the momentum accumulated. I had touched a nerve, or a need. The number of people participating or interested in the project continued to grow, as did the quality of the writing and the technical sophistication of the poems: forays into CGI scripting, collage, music, animation, concrete poetry, and various forms of hypertext were attempted. It was a ton of work and two tons of joy. An email list was founded for newspoets to share news and poems. A culture of Newspoetry was spawned, and a number of group readings were given live and on the radio.

I had always envisioned as a year-long project because I knew it would burn me out to have to work on the site every day. From 2000-2003, Joe Futrelle took over as editor. He did a superb job, making technical improvements throughout, keeping the site running smoothly, and formalizing the submission process somewhat through an FAQ.

The reading at the University of Illinois at Chicago which is referred to by the review at the top of this page happened a week before September 11th, 2001. It's hard to characterize how the terrorist attack and rapid political changes that followed seemed to undermine the spirit of the project. Newspoetry, as I see it, is a form of protest. The atrocities of September 11th were used as a pretext to ram through a savage agenda of permanent illegal war, and evisceration of a humane domestic agenda as well as the U.S. Constitution. During the Clinton administration, there was plenty to protest, but also a sense of hope that things could and might get better. The American hypocrisy was worth pointing out. Now, under Bush, it is not possible to have a sense of humor, and the hypocrisy of the "war on terror" to bring "freedom" to the people of the world shines so blindingly bright, most eyes are screwed shut and nothing will open them. Clinton read voraciously. There was always the hope he'd be a secret fan of the site. Bush is illiterate.

Joe Futrelle ended the collaborative online project gracefully on January 1st, 2003, having never, to my knowledge, missed a day of daily Newspoetry.

Following that, at some point the site vanished. I don't know why. I did manage to get the data from Joe Futrelle, and re-uploaded the site to Sadly, as of this draft the site sufferes from lack of time, money for server space, understanding of how to rebuild the dynamic parts of the site, dead links, missing images, and all the usual problems that beset moving, relocating, or rebuilding a free site with at least 1460 pages.

Still, newspetry continues to exist as a documentary record of the turn of the millennium, in case any alien archeologists wonder “what were you people thinking?”

I hope they dig up our hard drive. And dig our poetry.

the rest is history