Poetics List is 20

The Buffalo Poetics list is twenty. I started the list in December 1993 with this poem --

Above the world-weary horizons 
New obstacles for exchange arise
Or unfold,
O ye postmasters!

Our first post was from Peter Quartermain about the new Coach House edition of Robin Blaser’s The Holy Forest

The list went through many versions but in its earliest from there were about 150 of us exchanging posts in a pre-web environment. Somewhere along the line I came up with this statement of purpose:

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.  

In the late 1990s, Joel Kuszai worked with me as list moderator, a job later assumed by Chris Alexander, Lori Emerson, and then, for a long string our current moderator Amy King. Running the list was not always easy: there was a while, which reached a peak around the time of the impeachment against Bill Clinton, where we were hit by a torrent of troubling posts, which made for a steep learning curb about what is now recognized as flaming and trolls. 

The best introduction to the early list is Poetics@ edited by Joel Kuszai for Roof Books. 

 edited by Joel Kuszai, introduction by Charles Bernstein
compilation from the early list:

free epubmobipdf
or pay via Amazon

Poetics@ includes this post from March 1994, along with a discussion of the origin and aims of the list.

Subject: Hermit Crabs Don't Cry (Annals of Poetics 3/5/94)
Reply-To: UB Poetics discussion group <POETICS@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU>
Content-Type: text/plain

On one of my frequent trips to the Folded Place
inside the Ethernet's Thirteenth Passage,
with the new translation into Idiophone
of Moses Maimonides's Guide for the Perplexed
in my left hand, I had occasion to jot
down some rules of conduct (not so much
community standards as uncommunity striations)
into my Blake's Newton Feelpad (TM pending)
(a pad is after all a kind of home,
or used to be). The Feelpad, as many
of you will know (and I use the word "you"
carelessly), is able to convert inner feeling
processes into linguistic signs. The
protocols of the Blake's Newton Feelpad
do not allow me to review the file before
downloading directly onto your screens
(and I also use the word "your" carelessly):
All of these proposed Listserve Rules
will be enforced through a fully automated
new version of the Youngman Listserve Program
(Henney 33.95). As I am sure you will agree
(and I use "you" loosely), Total Automation
of rule enforcement is the only way to ensure
fair and impartial Rule Maintenance:
1. Postings on Poetics@UBVM shall be
neither in prose or verse. Rather,
all postings shall conform to shifting
character/line formats, announced
periodically on the list. Initially,
lines shall have at least 43 and no more
than 51 characters; hyphenation is
2. No messages shall be posted between
:43 and :52 minutes after the hour.
3. All postings shall be made from
"Dos"-type platforms; Apple users
may post from "IBM"-type computers
but the graphic orientation of
Macs make these environments
inappropriate for Poetics postings.
4. You have to sound 30 or show ID.
5. On the third Friday of every month, only short
"chat" messages to friends on the list may be posted.
For those without, or who no longer have, friends
on the list, a message service will be available
to provide names of friends as well as appropriate
6. The Listowner will provide a name
purging service to permit anonymous
postings. Purged names will remain
strictly confidential, although, at
the Listowner's discretion, they may be
sold, on condition of continued
confidentiality, to benefit the outreach
services at Poetics@UBVM provided
by Whitewater Development Company.
7. Subscribers to Poetics@UBVM agree to
end all "back channel" communication. All
communication among subscribers shall be
sent to the list as a whole: no individual
e-mail or conventional mail may be
exchanged, no face-to-face verbal
communications will be permitted
(nonverbal communication is in no
way restricted by this rule).
At first, this may be difficult
for those who live in the same area.
But, over time, the enormous advantages
to community-building will become
8. In order to cut down on those repulsive
smile icons that are used on Other Lists
to indicate humorous intent (as we used
to say in Method Acting class -- DON'T
INDICATE) [Remember the one about the actor who
asked the director what his motivation was to
walk across the set and light a cigarette, to
which the director replied, "your motivation is,
that if you don't, you'll be fired"?] --
where was I? even when I write I lose track
of where I am -- oh yeah,
in order to cut down on those smile icons,
and for other reasons that should be
obvious to all of you (I use the word
"you" inadvisedly), all irony
(including sarcasm, schtick,
mocking, jokes, and comic innuendo)
will be prohibited from the list.
This is a particularly difficult rule
to enforce automatically, but recent,
unpublishable, research, indicates
that there may be genetic markers of
sarcasm and our team of crack(ed?) computer
experts are working around the clock
to find programs to detect this "irony
gene" in linguistic expression.
For those who have asked that this
listspace move toward *reality* rather than
float in talky virtuality, the following rule
implementation procedure will be adopted:
If there is significant sentiment on the
list in favor of these rules, they will
not be adopted; if, in contrast, there
is strong opposition to these rules,
they will become effective immediately.
In addition, to bring even more reality
into the system, between three and five
Listserve Rules will remain concealed
from all subscribers AND about one percent
of all messages will be randomly deleted
before delivery.
Our public relations team at Hungadunga,
Hungadunga, and McCormack is currently considering
two campaigns. They will be making their
decision in the next few weeks:
POETICS@UBVM -- we're taking the unity
out of community! Unsubscribe today!
Not getting enough community at home?
Subscribe to POETICS@UBVM.
Yours in virtuality,
               C * h * a * r * l * e * s
   B * e * r * n * s * t * e * i * n