The (History and) Influence of the Internet on the Poetry of Greg Baysans

by Greg Baysans (edited by Edward Lacie)

It is often true that opposite statements will both be true about me. Regarding the influence of the internet/world wide web on my poetry, both these statements are true: "The existence of the web has had little effect on the poetry of Greg Baysans." "The existence of the web has had tremendous effect on the poetry of Greg Baysans." 

(See "Y2K Poem" for treatment of the Internet as subject matter.) 

In October, 1996, a week or two after hearing about the existence of such a product, I purchased a WebTV (now called MSN) for about $300.00. No printer, no memory, just web/internet access. Within a few weeks, I discovered sites (Geocities, Inergy [since defunct], Tripod, Talk City) where users could create their own pages and maintain a web site. Free! I have maintained a web site since. 

For at least two years it resembled what are now called "blogs," web sites tat reflect thee creativity or interests of the builder and are periodically updated. (I recall my ranting essay on "Titanic" winning the Best Picture Oscar. Another time I described web sites I'd found containing anagrams, including sites where the user could generate anagrams. Another time I found all the links I could to information about the poet Harold Norse, whom I mentioned meeting.) 

Until 1998, I wasn't actively writing poetry other than the occasional poetaster "flash" that has rust on the edges. I was then of the opinion that I'd quit writing poetry around 1991, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a year or two before moving to Portland, Oregon. 

In 1998, in response to the dismal job the then-editors of The James White Review made of the 15th Anniversary issue, I decided to post what I considered the "best of" the JWR's poetry from the nine years I was lead poetry editor. (insert link here?) (Phil Willkie had asked for my input then claimed to have "received it too late" when I responded within two weeks.) 

I had posted a few of my own favorite poems to my site, but not many. After successfully constructing the JWR Poetry (sub-)site, I figured it was time to try to assemble my "complete" writings on my site. The process of organizing my own poems led to the fictional account that is posted as my novella, 2007: or, The Unfinished Poem of Poet X. The novella concludes with an appendix that encompasses the poems I wished to claim as my oeuvre to that point, 1999. (2007 includes the "Male-ieu" poems with their sex-in-the-park content. 

Those poems are the "Unfinished Poem" of the title.) 
Putting my "old" poetry onto my "blog" (a word not yet invented) gave me the feeling again of being published. 
That re-ignited the creative juices and I began to write a few wobbly poems. ("In Which We Serve" is a story I'd heard a year or two before and had said at the time that it needed to be a scene in a novel.) 

The fact that, until recently, summer, 2003, I had neither a computer nor printer (my typewriter became obsolete in the late 1990s when it became hard to find typewriter ribbons to purchase and they weren't designed to last long) had the effect that the internet became my scratch pad and my file cabinet. (Now that I have a computer that's not hooked to the internet but is hooked to a printer, I'm unsure where to go when I want to write.) 

Other than posting a poem while I am still re-writing it, the web little affects the content of my poems. 

For the concept of writing that continually updates itself, one needs to refer to the alter ego of Edward Lacie, Lucas Edwards, who insinuates that the e-novel he and Edward Lacie are writing (and which concerns the poetry and life of Greg Baysans, among other topics) is constantly being corrected and re-written, even to the extent of taking "requests" from readers and incorporating those changes, if even perhaps only briefly, into "their" text, making it a constantly changing, unfixed work of fiction/creative writing (and making an infinite number of texts the definitive text). 

Edward Lacie, who wrote Harar: Taken to Twin Peaks, and Lucas Edwards, who writes the poetic counter-point to Lacie's novel, Taken to the Twin Peaks of Harar, make reference several times to Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler... and its conceit that it is an ever-changing book. 

The theme of alternate versions and rewrites is constant throughout Harar/Taken. Examples, besides the Calvino reference, are numerous: Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote (Borges) is quoted as source for a quote from Don Quixote; quoted is Ray Charles' version of "Look What They've Done To My Song" ahead of Melanie's original; the rewrite of City and the Pillar (Vidal) is compared side-by-side to the original; mention is made that Vonnegut (like multiplicity, a recurrent theme) wrote Timequake as a rewrite; the alternative ending of "Twin Peaks" (another theme) coincides with alternative endings in Harar and that is, of course, mirrored in Taken; the footnoted fact that Kilgore Trout is Vonnegut's fictional character but Trout's book is written by Josť Philip Farmer; Gore Vidal's books as Edgar Guest (one is cited specifically); Laura/Maddy from "Twin Peaks", White Lodge/Black Lodge; Rimbaud and his crowd's various pen names are mentioned and demonstrated (Rimbaud's); the duality of "Son of Sam" to sometimes mean David Berkowitz but usually a reference to someone else. These are only a few examples of duality pointed out in Harar/Taken.
The impact I see with the web on my poetry is its immediacy. When I wrote (the first draft of) a poem yesterday (7-25-03), it appeared on my web site. A link on my "home page" reads "My latest poem" and is updated as the situation presents itself. Some poems don't stay posted, other get moved to "sub-groupings" of poems. Those too are in danger of being "weeded out" when I choose. 

The potential for re-organization and minor re-writing on the web site is a feature I especially like. I feel a flexibility that Whitman would have envied for Leaves of Grass, considering how it evolved over time but remained the same piece. Keeping the website is something like that. 

-edited by Edward Lacie, 7/27/2003