The Sideshow Must Go On

Big Tent PoetryI am pleased to announce a promising new community website for poets and poetry lovers called Big Tent Poetry. According to the history section of the site, “The founders of Big Tent Poetry became acquainted in 2006 through the popular prompt site Poetry Thursday and, from 2007 to 2010, were members of the creative team that produced Read Write Poem (RWP).” I look forward to contributing my thoughts as a “sideshow barker” and watching this web site’s progress.

I also have to admit I had no idea that writing prompt websites have been around since 2006. Nor did I realize the popularity of responding to writing prompts online until I contributed a prompt to RWP for National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo to the initiated.) I had been swapping prompts by email once per month with a few fellow poets from my MFA program, and sent in my most recent concoction at one of the RWP site organizers’ request. That prompt, and every other prompt this month, received about two hundred responses–mostly poems! Witnessing this frenzy of writing, reading, and critiquing caused me to question some of my previous remarks about where poetry might be headed in the twenty-first century.

And so, I will watch with interest as poets and poetry lovers find new ways to reach out and connect. Though poetry may indeed be a sideshow in this media-dominated era, sites like RWP and Big Tent Poetry prove that it remains an act that many still want to get in to. Perhaps, to do so, we must be willing to redefine words like “reader” and “audience,” even as social networking websites have redefined the concept of “friend.” Or perhaps, amid all the fire juggling and sequined vaulting online, the opportunity remains, under a sufficiently large and encompassing tent, for words to transcend the horn-toots and clown cars of entertainment, reaching up into the rafters, to where the trapeze artists of language still make art.