Poetics List (1993-2014)
I started the Poetics List in late 1993, just after I came to Buffalo and co-founded the Poetics Program and a little while before the founding of the Electronic Poetry Center. When the list began, a email-based discussion group was a radically new format. There was no web interface and no way to filter messages. Emails were read and written via on-line ascii systems. During the first six years of the list, a deep and wide ranging discussion developed among the few hundred of us actively participating. I asked that the list address not be publicized so that we could keep the discussion to those with shared interests and that the list not become a general interest poetry forum. Much of the spirit of the early list was captured by Joel Kuszai, who edited Poetics@, for which I wrote the introduction. This ROOF book is available free in as epub, mobi, or pdf; or via Amazon. Or you can also explore the early Poetics List archive (1993-1996).
The list was unmoderated until 1999. At that time, many of us involved in early forms of social media were confronted by flaming, spam, and trolls -- before having those words for them. While some people objected to our move to list moderation, an unmoderated list ended up driving away or silencing people I wanted to be part of our discussion while at the same time giving free reign to those hostile to the list's basic orientation (which, regrettably, I was far too slow to realize). A no-holds barred unmoderated offshoot of the Poetics List was started but didn't last long. (I take up issues around editing the Poetics List in an essay in "Electronic Pies in the Poetry Skies" in Attack of the Difficult Poems.)
In any case, the care free days of the early list were over before the new Millenium opened its eyes. By that time, the list had become a rare open forum for the discussion of, and exchange of information about, unconventional poetry and poetics: you didn't have to be at a bar in New York or a cafe in San Francisco, or to know anybody on a scene, or to be enrolled in a program: all you needed to participate was an active interest. So I was determined to keep the thing afloat and with the help of a succession of list moderators, we did, peaking at about 1500 subscribers, with many more readers via the web.
Like PennSound and the EPC, the Poetics List has been housed in a non-profit, non-commercial space with no advertising, no snooping on reader's or posters' web activity, and privacy of our subscriber email list. This building of noncommercial web space has been a foundational principal for all three sites. For many of the long-term participants of the Poetics List, it became a very personal space of friendship and exchange, argument and disagreement, as well a place to find or post information about new books and publications and web links. Participants relied on the list for contact with those with shared poetry interests and as a means of getting in touch with one another. It was a life-line.
Here is how I formulated the aims of the list, in consultation with Joel Kusai and Chris Alexander, starting about 2000:
Our aim is to support, inform, and extend those directions in poetry that are committed to innovations, renovations, and investigations of form and/or/as content, to the questioning of received forms and styles, and to the creation of the otherwise unimagined, untried, unexpected, improbable, and impossible. While we recognize that other lists may sponsor other possibilities for exchange, we request that those participating in this forum keep in mind the specialized and focused nature of this project and respect our decision to operate a moderated list. The Poetics List exists to support and encourage divergent points of view on innovative forms of modern and contemporary poetry and poetics, and we are committed to doing what is necessary to preserve this space for such dialog.
Please note that this list is primarily concerned with discussions of poetry and poetics. We strongly encourage subscribers to post information, including web links, relating to publications (print and internet), reading series, and blogs that they have coordinated, edited or published, or in which they appear. Such announcements constitute a core function of this list. Brief reviews of poetry events and publications (print or digital) are always welcome.
The Poetics List is not a forum for a general discussion of poetry or for the exchange of poems. Queries for contact information, messages intended for just a few subscribers, "flame" messages, and free-standing personal poems or journal entries will, in general, not be forwarded to the list.
Also, please note that the Poetics List is not a "chat" list and we discourage the posting of very short messages intended for only a few subscribers. Personal queries and off-topic submissions will not be posted.
The advent of user-friendly blog sites provided welcome access for poets to create new forums, key alternatives to what the list initially offered. In the last several years, Facebook and Twitter have, for many of us, diminished the lure of Listserv forums.
It has been over ten years since I left Buffalo; it is no longer viable for me to continue to sponsor the list. So, as of today, the list has been discontinued. But we are maintaing and hope to improve, the list archive. The Poetics List EPC page will continue to have current information on the archive.
And as the old Poetics List has ended, a new one is beginning. Francesco Levato of the Chicago School of Poetics has started the Poetics List 2.0 -- which has many features not possible to offer via the Liserv format.