Silk Road British Poetry Readings on Air

As I mentioned earlier, I have been organising poetry readings for the poets included in the British poetry special feature I edited for Silk Road Review 10. The twist is that both of these readings will be conducted virtually and available globally, using Google+ Hangouts on Air. The dusts has settled, the dates (and stars) have finally aligned, and I am happy to announce two excellent lineups for these events. Save the dates!

Sunday, October 13th at 8PM BST / 3PM EDT / noon PDT
Featuring Patience Agbabi, Katy Evans-Bush, Isabel Galleymore, Chris McCabe, Andrew Philip, Paul Stephenson, and Claire Trévien
Silk Road British Poetry Reading on Air, Part I

Saturday, October 19th at 8PM BST / 3PM EDT / noon PDT
Featuring Liz Berry, Fiona Benson, Mark Burnhope, Abi Curtis, Helen Ivory, Ira Lightman, Rob A. Mackenzie, and Esther Morgan
Silk Road British Poetry Reading on Air

Click here for the latest news and updates from the Transatlantic Poetry community

Transatlantic Poetry Readings On Air

Transatlantic Poetry CommunityIf, like me, you are thrilled by the idea of being invited into the homes of remarkable poets thousands of miles apart to hear them read their best work, then you, my friend, are living in the right era. That time is now.

Since the early days of the Internet, I have been fascinated by the possibilities for making and sharing art. When my alma mater began broadcasting their Lunch Poems series at the turn of the century, I was delighted. It meant that not only could residents of Berkeley come to campus to hear free, live readings by world-class poets on their lunch hour, but that anyone could tune in from anywhere in the world. Still, the poets had to come to campus to read their poems.

In 2009, I interviewed Scottish poet Andrew Philip over Skype from my home in California as part of a “virtual book tour” for the launch of his first collection. Using screen capture technology, I was able to record our conversation and upload it for others to see. It was thrilling to connect across such a distance. However, producing the video was cumbersome, and was only available after the fact, not as a live broadcast.

This is why I was so excited to be contacted by Google back in April to hear about their celebrations of US National Poetry Month through a series of readings using Google+ Hangouts On Air. I was sadly unable to participate due to work commitments, but recalled the conversation when the British Poetry Special Feature from Silk Road Review that I edited came out earlier this month.

I wanted to celebrate the issue and bring the British poets together for a reading. However, they come from all over the UK, and travel to London can be difficult and costly. Plus, so much of the intent of the publication was to share the work of these poets with readers in the US.

Then it occurred to me that the reading need not be physical. So, with the support of the poets, Google, and Pacific University (sponsors of Silk Road Review), we are in the final stages of selecting dates for a very special poetry reading to be broadcast worldwide using Google+ Hangouts On Air. Continue reading…

Poetry Versus Angry Birds

“I have become comfortably numb.”

-Pink Floyd

When I commute into the city centre, I often take a book of poems. I read them eagerly on the way in to work. But after a long day wrestling with technical, logistical, and managerial issues, on the return journey I will invariably whip out my phone and tap away mindlessly at video games.

Certainly, energy is one factor in this pattern. Poetry demands attention (and good poetry rewards it in equal or greater measure); video games demand little but give back instantly in pleasurable (but short-lived) bursts. So, perhaps when I have less to give, I settle for the lightweight option. But this doesn’t explain the pattern entirely, because I often read and enjoy poems in the comfort of my own home when I am equally or even more tired — and I rarely play video games except to “kill time.”

The other factor is how incredibly uncomfortable I find being crammed into a tube carriage with strangers. Many people seem to take it in stride; for me every second counts. More than once, while playing video games, I have missed my interchange or only just looked up in time to get off at my stop. The stimulation and quick reward cycles of video games speed time up, which is exactly what I want at the end of a long day — to fast-forward through the unpleasant commute home.

Reading poetry, time behaves differently. Continue reading…

New Site Design

I spent some time at the weekend upgrading the look and feel of my website.

My aim was twofold: First, a kind of spring cleaning, aimed at de-cluttering the site and focusing the experience primarily on the articles, rather than myriad sidebar links. I have come to realise it is not so much reading on screen, as reading on a screen full of other options, that I find distracting and therefore distressing. Hopefully, in this sense, the new site mimics the experience of a print publication just that much more.

Second, I wanted to make my site more mobile-friendly. I extended the forthcoming and much-anticipated WordPress TwentyTwelve theme (still in alpha) with touch-friendly features such as a button-like top navigation menu and larger search box. The site also adapts based on screen size to avoid having to zoom and swipe around when reading on a small screen.

Although I typically have only upgraded my site every couple of years, it felt important and appropriate to serve a growing mobile readership with a better experience, and everyone else with what I hope to be a more elegant and visually-appealing presenation of my writing.

What do you think? The site may well have a few kinks to iron out (let me know if you find any). For those interested, you can also view past site designs, dating back to 1999.

Highgate Poets Website

In 2006, after moving to Ojai, California from Los Angeles, I helped redesign the Ojai Poetry Festival website. Drawing inspiration from print designs by the late Hope Frasier, I outfitted the site with a newsletter, RSS news feed, and online ticket sales system, as well as information about headliner poets and photos from past events. The site served the group well for several seasons, until the festival recently went into hibernation for financial reasons.

Having recently moved to North London and joined the Highgate Poets, I seized the opportunity to help them put up their new website soon after being accepted into the group. What took weeks of custom programming to create the content management system for the Ojai Poetry Festival only took a matter of hours this time, owing to advances in the WordPress blog software.

Thanks also to a host of software plugins, the site not only features member news, but has a calendar of events, newsletter, integration with the group’s Twitter account, and much more. Going forward, options for selling anthologies on the site or enriching the list of members with more detail is just clicks away.

It is a pleasure to be associated with such a fine group of poets, actively writing and publishing in the UK, and remarkable to see how open source software such as WordPress makes setting up a dynamic website easier all the time.