Issue 1: a story about publishing? copyright? one's good name?

--just want to point to a fascinating publishing story non-poets might not read about elsewhere. Editors Stephen McLaughlin and Jim Carpenter [I don't know them or know if those names are real, but assume they are] have just announced and e-published Issue 1, an almost 4,000-page journal of poetry, available as a downloadable .pdf. It includes "new work" by almost 4,000 poets, none of whom submitted any work, were contacted about the journal, or agreed to have their work in the journal. It includes work "by" me, work "by" my partner, work "by" Emily Dickinson. The poems aren't by the poets they're attributed to; they aren't even mash-ups or parodies of the work of those poets. They were created algorithmically with Erika, a, for lack of a better term, "poem machine." A poem in Issue 1 has no relation whatsoever to the poet who "wrote" it--or didn't until now.

I personally think Issue 1 is a scream--hey, it's the only poem I've published in 2008; damn right it goes on the cv and on the grant applications--but many "contributors" are, perhaps understandably, upset (like, lawsuit-threatening upset). Wait--I just wrote that "the poems aren't by the poets they're attributed to." But--are they? Who's to say that the poets "Emily Lloyd," "Teresa Ballard," "K. Silem Mohammad," and "Emily Dickinson" published in Issue 1 are me, my partner, this K. Silem Mohammad, and the first Emily Dickinson that comes to mind when one thinks of poetry? Like Erika, "Emily Lloyd" is a made-up poet., is she not? I'm not fond of her work, but I certainly don't question her right to write and publish.

Some interesting posts and discussions have been sparked by the publication of Issue 1, among them:

"How to Make a Poet Cry on the Interweb Using Search Technologies" (Jack Morgan at the seeqpod blog)

Ron Silliman's post (121 comments strong so far)

K. Silem Mohammad's post

post at Harriet, the Poetry Foundation's blog

Issue 1's page at Goodreads (11 reviews so far)


Kerry said...

Actually, I think it's identity theft. If you're down with the joke that's okay, especially if you think that joke/experiment will always continue to be known as such, but part of putting your name on your words and standing by them is validation and longevity.

I think this ties into some things I'm thinking about sparked by librarian blogs, and I'd really like to converse on it.

Emily, you're around my age--this is almost the same as the plot of Gordon Korman's A Semester In the Life of A Garbage Bag. Ever read it?

Emily Lloyd said...

Hi, Kerry--I've read lots of Korman, but not that one. I'll check it out.

Still thinking on the Issue 1 thing. It occurs to me that it might be easy for me to take it lightly because I take my poetry "career" lightly, at least these days. And because the "poems" are gibberish. I know I'd feel differently if, for example, someone made a library-related blog post--let's say a critique of the system I work in--and attributed it to me--or even a "Shelf Check" cartoon and attributed it to me. If the Issue 1 poems in any way resembled the work of the poets they're attributed to, that might change things for me, too.

Still thinking.