Michael's Addictions

Michael Gushue, a DC writer who has been featured in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, agreed to supply the following list. Michael is an inveterate surfer who has turned up some real gems. We asked him to compile the following list, so we could share these links more widely. --Ed.

One thing I do is send friends, family and associates in poetry links to sites on the World Wide Web. A lot of these online places usually have something to do with some form of creativity, either some creative operation, or a spur to doing something creative yourself. But not all of them are like that.

If I had to pick a defining characteristic, I guess it would be that, if you open up one of these places, and give it a minute or two, and the benefit of a doubt, you will probably find yourself addicted to what’s there—and what you do there—for maybe a day, or a certain part of the day, or years, but—let’s be realistic—probably not stretching cycles of years.

So here is a roster of my current addictions. “Addiction” makes it sound like a bad thing, but I’d rather think of “addiction” as a neutral phenomenological concept. Rather than harmful, I think you will find the sites below relaxing and stimulating, and cool. And addicting.

--Michael Gushue

Jackson Pollock dot Org
This site lets you produce a Jackson Pollockish action painting just by moving your mouse around the screen. Click to changes colors. Made by Miltos Menatas, a founding member of an art movement called Neen. I refuse to reveal how long I did this when I first found it:

My second most addicting favorite site. Click on “make an erasure” and you are sent to a new page with a paragraph from a source text (from a book in the public domain). Clicking on any word or punctuation mark and it disappears (click again to have it return). Erase as needed to produce a new, sculpted poem/text. Sponsored by Wave Books, an independent poetry press in Seattle, Washington:

Quickmuse’s tagline is “Great poets. Fifteen minutes. Poetry under pressure” which sums it up nicely. Two poets are given a text and have 15 minutes to write a poem in response to it. Quickmuse records each keystroke over the time period. You can playback the poem stroke by stroke and watch the pauses, deletions, misspellings and bursts of poetry as poets at top of their game write against the clock. This an amazing site, and if you are interested in poetry, it’s like looking into a poet’s creative mind as the sparks and flares go off. Robert Pinsky vs. Julianna Baggott, Paul Muldoon vs. Thylias Moss, and more:

Although it seems to be intended for expecting parents, NameVoyager doesn’t require pregnancy to be addicting. It’s an interactive portrait of first names graphed by popularity and by year. Type a letter, and the graph lines morph tracing how often that initial has been used over the past century. Each time you type an additional letter NameVoyager narrows the search to show those letters until you get to a full name. Each stripe is a timeline of one name, its width reflecting the name's changing popularity. There’s also information about each name if click on its stripe.

Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood
This site is a literary magazine that has a map instead of a Table of Contents. The map is of New York City, in an aerial photo taken from a plane. The litmag contains reportage, creative nonfiction, sketches, etc.
Click to zoom in on the map, even down to a specific building. Then click on red dots for writing, green dots to tell you where you are in NYC.

The writing is good, and there is something oddly compelling and, yes, addicitive, about looking at a bird’s eye view of Manhattan, and wondering: “So, what happened there?” and then being able click your mouse to find out.

Thomas Beller is a writer and editor who collaborated with Sabin Streeter and Tomas Clark to design and build Mr.Beller's Neighborhood which was subsequently redesigned and rebuilt by James Thoms of squareimage.com.

The Periodic Table of Poetry
Not strictly speaking interactive, the Periodic Table of Poetry shows up as the beautiful, elegant periodic table of elements. If you click on an element, it takes you to a poem or poems written for that chemical element and specifically for The Periodic Table of Poetry. Designed in 1998 by writer and communications specialist Maggie Schold, the site is still apparently accepting poems for yet to be claimed elements (that qualifies as the interactive part):

I also have to mention the Periodic Table Table, because it is so cool:

Lunch Poems
This site is interactive in the sense that listening to poetry is always interactive. “Lunch Poems” is noontime poetry series curated by Robert Hass, and can be a great impetus to your own creative stuff. You can watch (in some cases just listen to) a half hour video of poets such as Billy Collins, Li-Young Lee, Cornelius Eady, Mary Reufle, et cetera. Really, the readers run the gamut from popular to innovative and in between. Maxine Hong Kingston, whose poetry I didn’t know, impressed me. Sponsored and archived by the Media Resources Center of the Morrison Library in Doe Library of University of California Berkeley. There are readings from 2000 to 2006 you can watch. Thank you, Media Resources Center:

DC Places Issue Map
One more map: I also have to say I really like the map accompanying the Summer 2006 edition of Beltway Poetry Quarterly: