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Revision -- Thrilling Possibilities in the Digital Age

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Ever since the arrival of the digital age there have been discussions centered around which is the better fit for poetry: the printed page of a book or magazine; or the screen of a personal computer, tablet, or smartphone. Whenever I've taken part in one of these discussions, I've always opined that it makes no difference whether a poem is viewed on the page of a book or on a digital device, that Keats' "Bright Star" is the same lovely work of art on either media. That's not to say I don't appreciate books as objects, as collectibles having various degrees of loveliness, or that I don't take pleasure in handling books or reading from their pages, only that when it comes to poetry, I think we as poets/artists are fortunate that our works of art, the poems themselves, do not depend on any particular media.

I came upon an intriguing article in The Guardian which seems to reinforce my school of thought: Why Kanye West and Nicki Minaj are hooked on tampering with their finished albums -- In the age of streaming, an artist can endlessly tweak their masterpieces - but where does it end? In these days where digital downloads and streaming music may very well have surpassed acquiring hard copies (vinyl, tape, or compact disc) artists are using technology to revise/tweak their newly released works!!! They are also releasing unfinished albums and using technology to "update" them! While the article mentions that some purists might reject this idea, because, "records are windows into a particular point in time and artists should leave them alone as a record of that particular moment," to me these modern possibilities are thrilling.

I know that many poets love to revise. While no one has to revise, thanks to digital technology one has the option to revise already released, finished works -- easily. Of course, I am talking about this realm wherein I publish, here at PMO, but the option exists wherever one self-publishes. I am beyond excited to see established artists doing this. As some here may know, I personally don't like to post poems that aren't substantially finished. But now, when I do tweak one of my "substantially finished" poems, I can point to much more successful artists than I, people at the top of their game who are doing the same thing.

The more options we as artists have, the better. Before the digital technology that we have at our disposal today was readily available, the options that poet-artists had just for getting their work out there were extremely limited. In fact, before the internet, most poets' work would never be out there for anyone else to discover or enjoy. And before the internet age, it's unlikely those of us who associate here would ever have been able to share any of our works or thoughts about each others' works.

Industries change. I read another article a while back about recording studios and how they are now no longer as necessary as they were in the past, how the business model is not what it used to be. People can make high quality recordings by themselves, using relatively affordable technology, and they are doing it not just for money but for the love of it! Even the distribution schemes of the past are blown wide open with digital releases and streaming. These principles hold true for poets, too. Thanks to the internet and readily available, relatively affordable technology, artists have more options to break into and even dominate what traditionally have been extremely closed platforms. Options are good. Embrace the technology.


LINK to Keats' "Bright Star" Manuscript Image in the PMO Gallery

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