Review of Poets Gone Wild: An Internet Anthology by Sarah Miller
I am, I confess, a fan of online poetry workshops. Half Drunk Muse, after all, grew out of a now defunct workshop, where I met many of the members who became our first contributors. So when M, the administrator of the Wild Poetry Forum, approached me about reviewing Poets Gone Wild, I was eager to see the anthology. Would it be a vanity publication for the benefit and interest of forum members, or would it appeal to a larger audience and have something to say about the effectiveness and poetic abilities of the forum?
Wild Poetry Forums, according to M’s introduction, was established in 1998 by a group of refugees from another restrictive and harsh workshop. Led by Sister Ulv (Debby Clowes) and Jaguwar (Michelle Petit-Sumerall), Wild was created under “the belief that we could institute and maintain a place on the web where people of all races, ages, genders, colors, creeds, and experience levels could work and play in harmony.” The name comes from Sister Ulv’s discovery of alternative healers or shamans, sometimes called “Wilders”: “We are ‘Wilders’ who have rebelled against a system that could not contain us and practice our own band of healing on the poet’s heart.” The site continues to reflect these roots, with board names like Intuitive Healing, Primordial Sound, and Essential Oils.
Poets Gone Wild is a testament to their encompassing and supportive approach to poetry, and definitively answers the question of whether an online workshop can produce crafted works of interest to readers outside the forum: yes, it most certainly can. The anthology includes three to five poems by 33 forum members. Their bio notes speak to the diversity of Wild’s membership: contributors to the anthology live in the United States, Australia, England, and the Philippines. They also represent a wide range of publication experience, from no credits listed to Eleanor Lattner’s note that the anthology is her first print publication, to extensive lists of online and print journals readers will immediately recognize: Stirring, Niederngasse, Miller’s Pond, Melic Review, Web Del Sol Review, MiPo, Pedestal Magazine, Adirondak Review, Drunken Boat, and on and on. They’ve won regional awards and international contests, are contributing editors or editors-in-chief for several journals, and have published books or anthologies of their own. Some have completed PhDs or other formal degrees, both in creative writing and other fields. The anthology represents, unquestionably, a formidable group of writers. But as M emphasized in her emails to me, as her introduction repeatedly references, and as I’ve come to understand from browsing around the forums, Wild isn’t about pushing writers to publish (although its members are certainly active in that field)—it’s about a range of writers, from novice to experienced, supporting each other. Poets Gone Wild is meant to represent that range.
Certainly the poems don’t evidence what I call forum rot—the tendency for some forums to become so focused on a particular idea of what poetry “is” that all the writers begin to sound the same. Christopher T. George opens the anthology with fairly long lines, including these from “Transfusion,” itself a long poem:
Barbara, I can’t stop the tumor growing in your lung
and neither can the new chemo the Feds tried.
Several pages later, Dorothy Doyle-Mienko’s “A Poem to My Left Breast” embraces sparse language, short lines, and a far simpler presentation:
they let me
Or there’s Beau Blue’s “For the Lingerie Ladies,” a twenty-five part poem with each suggestive section having only three lines:
II. six steps from the hot tub
a black-lace leotard
flung on the bed
slides slowly to the floor
And back again to more narrative writing that lingers longer over individual images, such as E. V. Brook’s “Our Garden”:
She talks about water the way I talk
about Rome. I have never seen fear
spread uneven across her face like it does
for those in battle before death. [...]
I keep emphasizing in this review that the poems come from a workshop, and the ethos of the workshop. Certainly, the anthology is a testament to the spirit and community of the forum, but it would be a mistake to think it is only relevant to members of that forum. There wasn’t a poem in the anthology that I felt was out of place, under-crafted, or published for vanity reasons. This was, I’m happy to say, one of the most enjoyable anthologies I’ve read in quite some time, and I highly recommend it to you. Consider it a bonus, not its defining feature, that if you wanted to talk with (and even workshop your poems with) the contributors in this book you can find them all on the Wild Poetry Forums. The defining feature of the anthology is the quality of its writing.
188 pgs, $19.95
Wild Poetry Press, 2005
Available from Amazon.com or Lulu.com.