The Zodiac, an illuminated manuscript
by the Limbourg Brothers

"With graphics that evoke a New Tarot, poems that tend towards scientific vocabulary, and links that are whimsical and potent ("black pumps" bumped me from poem to poem in a blink of a Bataille eye), editor Jennifer Ley seems deadly serious in catalyzing a bravura cyberpoetics -- and having a ton o' fun in the process ..."

-- Bob Holman, at the miningcompany
To Zine or Not To Zine ....

I was having a conversation with a poet/editor friend the other day about Internet publishing, and she remarked, "Well Astro (the Astrophysicist's Tango Partner Speaks) isn't really an ezine, it's an archive."

And I thought ... What? When I think of the word archive, as it relates to publications, I think of all those microfiche files in the basements of the libraries I used as a college student. The material in those files was fixed, static, etched for as long as the film emulsion lasted - a far cry from the Web site I'd started creating over two years ago.

It strikes me as somewhat interesting, on further thought, how the Internet has become a place where so many literary sites mimic the magazine/journal format of print media. To be sure, many of us have added real audio, unique navigational features, animated logos, whatbyte, but how many of us have taken a fresh look at the workings of the Internet itself, or the way hypertext can link image and language?

My first introduction to hypertext was through the work of Robert Kendall, who basically wrote the "book" on hypertext authorship. Many other artists and writers have followed his example. Editor/poets like Marek Lugowski have grabbed onto hypertext as a raison d'etre - forging beautiful intuitive poetry sites like Agnieszka's Dowry. But these are the exceptions.

This strikes me as somewhat sad - given the immense tools at our disposal on the Web. Not that I would advocate using technology merely because we can, but because when I think about the experience of reading poetry, I am immediately struck by how intuitive a process it is to enter the world of another writer's symbol and language architecture. Often what I'll perceive about a poem isn't something I can describe - to describe it would be to weaken the thought construct the poem has painted in my mind. But the poem will often make me think of a particular piece of art or, of another poem by another author.

Hypertext linked poetry sites allow an editor to act as psyche (not psychic, thank you - I'm not Chandra) tour guide - to build layer upon layer of image - an editor can amplify a specific image or emotion, or veer off into aligned but separate territory all together.

People tell me they find Astro very relaxing, that they 'get lost' in the links, look up, and realize they've been reading poetry for an hour, with no clear idea how they got from poem A to poem Z. I like to think they've been allowed to orchestrate their own collective poetry unconscious - with the links as their guide - each viewer drawn by their own particular interests. With over 200 poems resident on Astro (and more added on a monthly basis) - few viewers share exactly the same experience.

Thus I would have to say to my poet/editor friend, you're right, Astro isn't a typical ezine, with monthly or quarterly additions, and a convenient Volume 1, Issue 1 presentation. Perhaps Astro is a hybrid, a mutant, a not so new but underutilized form of electronic publishing - something a bit more akin to the spirit that I like to think informs the best poetry.


Jennifer Ley is the editor of the Astrophysicist's Tango Partner Speaks and the new multi- featured poetry magazine, Perihelion at Web Del Sol. She is also the Design Editor for The Alsop Review.

In 1997, Astro hosted a reading in New York City featuring over twenty authors featured on the site and produced a print anthology of selected poetry. Not exactly what you'd expect from an archive.

Back to the Astrophysicist's Tango Partner Speaks