If, 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.
Meanwhile, partly to prepare for that reading and also to further my quest to connect poets across the pond in meaningful ways, I am organising a series of shorter events pairing one poet from the US with one poet from the UK or Europe for readings and discussions, including a chance for you to tune in and ask questions. Some big names in poetry on both sides of the Atlantic have already said “yes” to this experiment, as well as some sizzling up-and-coming newer poets, and I am looking forward to announcing the first pairings soon.
If you are interested in staying abreast of these developments, the best thing to do is join the Transatlantic Poetry Community on Google+. This will require creating a Google+ profile (if you do not already have one), but it should only take a minute to do so. I do believe it will be well worth your while.
We are living in the future, friends.